Cincinnati: Board member stunned by 20% of students in SPED; "Something must be done!"

June 8, 2018, Opinion: School board, clarify special-ed spending It’s budget time at Cincinnati Public Schools. Their fiscal year ends June 30, and in the wake of the FC Cincinnati stadium deal, public interest is increasing around school funding as well as how and where the district is spending its money. These are conversations we need to keep having, but not my main impetus in writing this piece. I want to focus on a particular portion of CPS’s spending – special education. Out of roughly 36,000 students, approximately 7,500 are children with disabilities or special learning needs. This is not a typo – over 20 percent of students in CPS require special education services, and the district spends sometimes more than 10 percent of its average per-pupil cost ($9,949 according to the latest data from the Ohio Department of Education) to see that they get these services…. So why does one of the more senior members of the school board say we need to “talk turkey” about special education expenses?... In any case, this particular member of the school board went on a tangent about the costs incurred by the district for special education students (and preschool expansion, but that’s another discussion). To paraphrase, the member said these costs are consuming a huge portion of the CPS budget, and something must be done! What is being implied here? I have a few ideas, all of which sicken me to think someone elected to a board of education would entertain. Refusing to enroll them is illegal, cutting services opens the door to lawsuits over the IDEA, and pushing families toward non-CPS options just means we’re paying for someone else to provide them with an education. Would you please take a moment to clarify? I believe other district stakeholders would appreciate this and the opportunity to engage in a real dialogue about it – to “talk turkey” if you will. Otherwise, this board member may be eating crow come next year’s school board election. Green Township resident Marlena Brookfield is a graduate of Western Hills High School, the parent of a CPS student and a member of the Cincinnati Educational Justice Coalition.