Tonight, in addition to the discussion about how to fill Solana Henneberry’s seat, there will be a discussion about a new Special Education strategic plan. From my understanding there is new leadership within and costs are rising so it’s as good as a time as any to create a strategic plan.
Anecdotally I’ve heard that dealing with the District is…challenging…when it comes to special education. I don’t have any personal experience with this, but it’s something that I’ve heard more than once.
Anyway, there are various external factors as to why the District is doing this now including work at the State level, but locally this is why the District is engaging in this process now:
The cynical TL;dr of all those slides are: the District’s costs are spiraling out of control for Special Education services and there needs to be a look to see how to control the costs through some efficiencies.
The non-cynical TL;dr is the District is attempting to build a better continuum of care for students in need of Special Education services.
One number may jump out at you because, well, it’s in red so it’s meant to jump out at you but it shows that 12.6% of AUSD students have special education identifications compared with a statewide average of 10%. If you follow that same slide it shows that the District also transports 13.8% of students whereas the statewide average shows that most districts only transport 10%.
Now, for more cynical discussion. History shows us that when the District wants to save money it begins discussions on consolidating. After all if you have five students at five sites who all require a speech therapist hiring one speech therapist at each school to serve one student is not cost effective. But having those five kids based at one site with one speech therapist is a lot more cost effective. However consolidating all special education students at one school feels a little throwback.
It will be really important for parents with real stakes in this process get involved in this strategic planning group. While I know there are good people doing good work at the District level, in the end their job is the maximize what little dollars they have to spend on educating the kids of Alameda. But sometimes that goal and the need to serve the individual student are not necessarily compatible.