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Sequester Hits Special Education Like ‘Ton of Bricks’

Sep 10, 2013 -- 4:10 pm
By ADRIENNE LU, STATELINE
September 10, 2013 Text Size A A
Since the first day of class for most schools in Michigan last week, Marcie Lipsitt’s phone has been ringing nonstop with parents distraught about cuts to their children’s special education services.
A new round of special education cuts were taking hold, prompted by a 5 percent reduction in federal funding of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), said Lipsitt, a longtime advocate for children with disabilities and co-chair of the Michigan Alliance for Special Education.
Lipsitt said it means that many schools have eliminated resource rooms where children can go to get help in areas such as math, reading, writing and organizational skills. Many schools will have fewer speech, occupational or physical therapists, along with social workers and school psychologists, which means students who previously received speech therapy twice a week might only receive it once week, for example. And in some general education classrooms that had two teachers — one for the whole class and one specifically to support students with special needs — the special education teacher has been eliminated.
“For Michigan, it hit like a ton of bricks,” Lipsitt said. “Conditions are eroding and children are not being allowed to become taxpayers. They’re not being given access to independence, being productive, being ready for a global workforce.”
Across the country, advocates for children with disabilities are grappling with the impact of sequestration, the automatic budget cuts that kicked in when Congress failed to reach an agreement to reduce the federal budget. Although the cuts took effect March 1, the impact did not reach schools until the start of the current school year because of the way many education programs are funded.
Experts agree there is little hard data on the impact of the budget cuts on special education. The U.S. Department of Education estimates the sequester cut about $579 million in federal funding for IDEA Part B, which supports students age 3-21 with specific learning disabilities, speech or language impairments, intellectual disabilities, autism or emotional disturbances.
The National Education Association estimates that if states and local school systems did not replace any of the funds lost through sequestration, nearly 300,000 students receiving special education services would be affected. The union estimated up to 7,800 jobs could be lost as a result of the federal budget cuts.
All told, 6.5 million children with disabilities ages 3-21 received services funded by the IDEA in the fall of 2011, the most recent number available. T read the entire article, please click: http://www.disabilityscoop.com/2013/09/10/sequester-sped-bricks/18689/

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