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New Mexico: State Ed Dept criticized for weaknesses in special ed program

June 29, 2019, Albuquerque (NM) Journal: (OP ED) Special ed needs action, not study … Last (month), the New Mexico Public Education Department, in presentation to (the Legislative Education Study Committee), claimed that special education across the state of New Mexico was a priority. The state’s plan is to take a “deep dive” consisting of a yearlong audit – for which NMPED has apparently not yet developed any specific goals or tasks. A plan to address special education issues in New Mexico consisting of gathering information for a year is simply a decoy. NMPED currently has knowledge about significant dysfunction in the delivery of special education to our students with disabilities across the state. Each year, NMPED receives dozens of state complaints and due process hearing requests by parents and organizations identifying issues of non-compliance with federal law and school districts’ failure to provide appropriate special education. NMPED leadership should simply sit down, analyze the repeated fact patterns in these complaints and prioritize solutions for the lists of problems found there. Here’s what one top 10 issue list might look like: 1. Children with autism are not provided education consistent with evidence-based practices; 2. Children with disabilities are routinely restrained and secluded contrary to state law; 3. School districts are not providing research-based reading instruction to students who have reading disabilities, including dyslexia; 4. Parents and staff who advocate for children with disabilities are retaliated against; 5. Students with disabilities are placed in segregated “special” education classes and taught all year by substitutes or staff with no specialized training; 6. Schools threaten their own staff to not report problems to parents of children with disabilities; 7. Many of our best special education staff leave every year because of lack of support for their important work and due to a toxic environment created by administrators; 8. Children who have nonconforming behaviors as result of disability and inadequate education are punished, excluded and charged with crimes; 9. Schools routinely call parents to remove their children from school or to come to the school and provide support; and 10. No meaningful, ready technical assistance and consultation exists for special educators charged with meeting students’ complex educational needs. It is nonsensical for NMPED to delay action. The hard work is creating solutions, not “finding” issues.
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