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Connecticut: SPED funding now 20-24% of school budgets; more student with behavior issues

Jan 22, 2019, New London (CT) Day: Education association focuses on special ed funding, school safety The Connecticut Association of Boards of Education is playing defense as the 2019 legislative session starts, making sure their concerns are heard when it comes to bills on school safety and special education funding. For each of these issues, a task force that reports to the General Assembly started meeting in July. CABE's respective positions on these issues are that students acting out shouldn't be removed from the classroom with no supports, and that there are a lot of problems with pooling money for special education. … In June, then-Gov. Dannel Malloy vetoed a bill that would have created a process for removing a student who violated "daily classroom safety." "We hear from principals and superintendents that they are seeing more children at a very young age so impacted by the traumas in their lives" that they act out in the classroom, McCarthy said, citing biting and throwing furniture as examples. CABE had opposed the bill, which the organization originally was told would not be moved last session. A task force, created by legislative mandate to study the issue, involved CABE as well as teacher unions, principals, superintendents, school board members and advocates for special-needs children, who often are the ones getting removed from classrooms. McCarthy feels the report that the task force issued is "certainly an improvement" but still needs work. … CABE would like to see more mental health professionals and social workers in schools, with Mitchell noting that his goal for Montville is to bring in a second school psychologist. … "We see this as a nightmare, frankly," McCarthy said of the proposal. Her concerns are that it doesn't solve the funding problem, it only provides stability for one year at a time. She said the state doesn't need more bureaucracy, and there's the danger that the state won't keep putting in its share. Districts are required to put special education students in the least restrictive environment, and depending on a given school's programs, that could mean putting the student in a specialized classroom in-district or sending the student to another district. The instability of special education costs is an issue all over the country, not just in Connecticut. Mitchell noted that a few years ago, a family moved from New York to Montville with four students who had outplacements, and the least expensive was $125,000. Rader said that special education costs are now 20 percent to 24 percent of an education budget but special education students make up only 10 percent to 12 percent of a school district's population. McCarthy is concerned that at some point there will be a clash between parents of special-needs students and the other parents, and "it's not going to be a pretty fight."…
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