November 08, 2011

Special Education Mandate Relief: TAKE ACTION NOW

Source: NYSUT Research and Educational Services

NYSUT expects that the Board of Regents will be asked at their meeting on Monday, Nov. 14th to support a number of special education mandate relief proposals recommended by State Education Department staff.

We urge NYSUT members and other interested parties to contact the Board of Regents and let them know your position on these proposals.

See the sidebar for information on how to take action!

About Special Education Mandate Relief

Special education mandate relief must not be considered solely as an opportunity to provide programmatic flexibility and potential cost savings. The mandate must also be viewed within the context of the concern or issue it was designed to address.

New York state has been a long-standing leader in providing special education programs and services that, in fact, preceded the federal entitlement for a free appropriate public education for students with disabilities established by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Under New York state’s current educational policies and procedures, more students with disabilities are passing Regents examinations, graduating from high school and participating in post-secondary educational opportunities. The unique challenges facing the diverse preschool and school age student population in over 700 urban, rural and suburban school districts, BOCES and private schools in this state have resulted in laws and regulations that, while not anticipated or detailed in the federal requirements, provide protections consistent with the statutory intent of IDEA.

It is NYSUT’s position that the majority of the mandate relief proposals would, if adopted, negatively impact the ability of families of students with disabilities to obtain and receive an appropriate program of special education. There is significant concern that repealing requirements will result in districts, faced with continuing fiscal challenges, institutionalizing poor practice at the expense of students with disabilities. Although parents of students with disabilities have the right to challenge school districts regarding appropriate special education programs and services, public policy should not rely on due process to ensure compliance with federal and state laws and regulations. As educators across New York state work to close gaps in achievement and prepare students for college and careers, we believe these mandate relief efforts do not support that effort and will create additional challenges for students with disabilities and their families.


Proposals for Special Education Mandate Relief 

1. Conform the membership of CSE to the federal individualized education program (IEP) team membership by repealing the requirement that CSE membership must include a:

  • school psychologist;
  • parent of a student with disability; and
  • physician if requested by the school or parent 72 hours before the meeting.

RECOMMENDED RESPONSE: OPPOSE

SUPPORTING COMMENTS:

  • While it may be reasonable to discuss other options for involving a physician in the Committee on Special Education (CSE) process, a school psychologist provides value to the CSE decision-making process that cannot be duplicated by other mandated members.
  • The federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) does not require a psychologist, however the Individualized Education Program (IEP) Team is required to have “an individual who can interpret the instructional implications of evaluation results.” We believe that the role is appropriately filled by the school psychologist.
  • If the mandate is repealed, the interpretation of instructional implications of the evaluative information would be left to other required CSE members such as the district representative, special education teacher or general education teacher whose training and preparation does not include the interpretation of psychological assessments and procedures.
  • The CSE would not have the same depth of knowledge and expertise necessary for informed decision-making on appropriate student programs and services.
  • The flexibility and any perceived cost savings realized by eliminating this CSE member will seriously impair the ability of the CSE to identify appropriate programs and services for students with disabilities based upon their individual needs.
  • The requirement for an additional parent on the CSE was established as a result of persuasive support from many constituencies including parent and student advocacy groups. No evidence is presented that would indicate that the interests of children and families will be well-served by such a change.


2. Repeal requirements no longer necessary if Proposal #1 is adopted:

  • Subcommittees on Special Education
  • Meeting notice content information relating to Subcommittees

RECOMMENDED RESPONSE: OPPOSE

SUPPORTING COMMENTS:

  • We support the continued flexibility provided by Subcommittees on Special Education.
  • Subcommittees on Special Education provide an opportunity for school districts to use a committee process with membership more aligned with that of the IEP Team required by federal law.


3. Align CPSE membership with the federal IEP team, by repealing the requirement that the CPSE membership must include an additional parent member, but continue the municipality representative until such time that the county no longer has a role in the provision or payment of special education to preschool students.

RECOMMENDED RESPONSE: OPPOSE

SUPPORTING COMMENTS:

  • The requirement for an additional parent on the Committee on Preschool Special Education (CPSE) was established as a result of persuasive support from many constituencies including parent and student advocacy groups.
  • No evidence is presented that would indicate that the interests of children and families will be well-served by such a change.


4. Repeal the requirement that the parent selects the preschool evaluator and replace it with the requirement that the school district, after providing the parent with a list of approved evaluators, must consult with the parent regarding the selection of an evaluator that can provide a timely evaluation of the preschool child. All school districts would be approved preschool evaluators.

RECOMMENDED RESPONSE: OPPOSE

SUPPORTING COMMENTS:

  • Parental choice of preschool evaluators is a clear requirement in Education Law that was established as a result of persuasive support from many constituencies including parent and student advocacy groups.
  • No evidence is presented that would indicate that the interests of children and families will be well-served by such a change.


5. Adopt the federal standard for initial evaluations by repealing the requirement that each initial individual evaluation of a student suspected of having a disability must include a physical examination, individual psychological evaluation, social history, observation, other appropriate evaluations and functional behavioral assessment (FBA) when behavior impedes learning.

Replace it with the federal requirement that the initial evaluation include an assessment of the student in all areas related to the suspected disability, including, if appropriate, health, vision, hearing, social and emotional status, general intelligence, academic performance, communicative status and motor abilities.

RECOMMENDED RESPONSE: OPPOSE

SUPPORTING COMMENTS:

  • The requirement for a comprehensive initial evaluation ensures decisions regarding eligibility for special education services are based upon a wide range of evaluative information.
  • The flexibility provided by this proposal would not ensure a comprehensive evaluation related to all areas of the suspected disability when faced with the reality of fiscal limitations and staffing reductions.
  • There currently is flexibility in regulation for a school psychologist to determine whether an individual psychological evaluation is unnecessary for the initial evaluation.
  • In addition, as per Commissioner’s Regulations, a group of qualified professionals can review existing evaluation data on the student and determine that additional data is not needed.
  • As school district’s implement more sophisticated response-to-intervention processes, students referred to special education will most likely have in their educational records evaluative data documenting their individual needs. This existing evaluative data may be sufficient to address some components of a student’s initial evaluation.


6. Repeal the requirement that establishes a process for a school psychologist to determine the need to administer an individual psychological evaluation and provide a written report when such evaluation is determined not to be necessary. (Contingent upon Proposal #5a to adopt the federal standard for individual evaluations.)

RECOMMENDED RESPONSE: OPPOSE

SUPPORTING COMMENTS:

  • We oppose eliminating the flexibility currently provided by this requirement.
  • It is interesting to note that this provision was originally established to provide fiscal relief to school districts during a budget crisis in the 1990s.


7. Repeal the requirement for boards of education to have plans and policies for appropriate declassification of students with disabilities, while retaining the federal requirement that each student with a disability receive a reevaluation prior to a declassification recommendation.

RECOMMENDED RESPONSE: OPPOSE

SUPPORTING COMMENTS:

  • Declassification plans not only provide for the reevaluation of students prior to declassification but also consider necessary educational and support services for declassified students. Without such planning, students may not receive necessary services in order to benefit from instruction in the general education setting.


8. Repeal the Commissioner of Education’s role in appointments to State-supported schools and the requirement that the State-supported school evaluate the student in addition to the evaluation conducted by the school district.

RECOMMENDED RESPONSE: OPPOSE

SUPPORTING COMMENTS:

  • We oppose any attempts to revise the appointment process without any information indicating current costs and anticipated savings realized through implementation of the proposal.
  • In addition, the proposal does not describe how elimination of the current appointment process will safeguard an appropriate program placement that will meet the individual needs of the student.
  • We have concerns regarding the impact such a change would have on least restrictive environment decisions for students with disabilities and New York state efforts to reduce the number of students with disabilities in more restrictive settings.
  • The evaluation process conducted by the state-supported school ensures that the individual needs of the student are appropriately identified and that the state-supported school can meet those individual needs.