Bill to create Special Education Task Force still ignoring parents as introduced.

This past summer, interim legislative committee, the Extraordinary Cost Fund for Special Education Study Committee, drafted several pieces of legislation, a couple of which I discussed in an earlier post here.

This past week the committee’s legislation was formally filed, and as mentioned earlier, portions of it are still ignoring important participants in any discussion about the education of our children – parents.

SENATE BILL 3
Introduced by:    Senators Bolin, Maher, Nesiba, and Youngberg and Representatives Schoenfish, Bartels, Duvall, and Smith (Jamie) at the request of the Extraordinary Cost Fund for Special Education Study Committee

 FOR AN ACT ENTITLED, An Act to create the Special Education Task Force.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF SOUTH DAKOTA:
Section 1. That chapter 2-6 be amended by adding a NEW SECTION to read:
There is hereby created the Special Education Task Force. The purpose of the task force is to examine the rising numbers of students in South Dakota schools who are being identified as in need of special education or special education and related services, to examine the increasing costs of the services these students require, and to develop recommendations to address the situation.
Section 2. That chapter 2-6 be amended by adding a NEW SECTION to read:
The task force created in section 1 of this Act shall consist of the following twelve members:
(1)    The Executive Board of the Legislative Research Council shall appoint the following:
(a)    Three legislators including, if possible, the chair or vice-chair of the Senate standing committee on education and the chair or vice-chair of the House standing committee on education and one member of the minority party who serves on either the Senate or House standing committee on education; and
(b)    A person who is an advocate for persons with disabilities;
(2)    The secretary of education shall appoint the following:
(a)    Three school district superintendents; one representing a school district located east of the Missouri River, one representing a school district located west of the Missouri River, and one representing a school district with a fall enrollment of four hundred or fewer;
(b)    One current member of a local school board;
(c)    One special education teacher with at least five years experience in teaching special education who is currently employed in a school district other than a school district represented by a superintendent or school board member appointed to serve on the task force pursuant to this section; and
(d)    One person representing the Department of Education; and
(3)    The Governor shall appoint two persons.
Section 3. That chapter 2-6 be amended by adding a NEW SECTION to read:
The task force shall be under the supervision of the Executive Board of the Legislative Research Council and shall report to the board on the task force’s activities from time to time. The task force shall be funded and staffed as an interim legislative committee.
Section 4. That chapter 2-6 be amended by adding a NEW SECTION to read:
The task force shall conclude its work and report its findings and recommendations to the Legislature and to the Governor no later than December 31, 2020.

Follow the legislation here.

Sorry, but absent some changes to this task force, I’m going to continue to grouse about parents being ignored.

I see a lot of bureaucrats being appointed to this panel to “find solutions” and “develop recommendations” but literally only one member who actually delivers the services, and “an advocate for persons with disabilities,” which isn’t school age specific, and that’s about it.

The federal laws which are driving much of the expense are there to preserve the rights of students and their families. Many disputes arise over schools deviating from students’ IEP’s (Individualized Education Plans) and the federal laws which surround them gives parents the right to dispute any issues with the school district through a neutral third party.

Literally, when it comes to special education, parents are involved in how their child’s education program is designed and delivered at every step of the way, and if these plans are considered to be inadequate or not being delivered, parents are the ones who bring the matter to court.

No study group is going to change that, and they’re certainly not going to change federal law. But, in the interest of bringing the parties to the table for a discussion, it might not be the worst thing in the world to have parents who are intimately involved in their children’s education at the table when you discuss how to solve problems caused by how much it costs.

15 Replies to “Bill to create Special Education Task Force still ignoring parents as introduced.”

  1. a friend of education

    The legislature would be wise to consider Pat’s suggestion. Will it be an easy fix? Nope. Incorporating the parents’ perspective will be fraught with challenges. Yet, it can be done. As they say in the movie: Difficult, not impossible.

    Overcome this obstacle & the end result will be much more effective. Loving parents have, over the decades, amassed a wealth of knowledge on this important topic. Parents know what works and what needs fixing. IMHO, it’s one of those “all hands on deck” type situations.

    Reply
  2. Anonymous

    Who chooses which parents are part of the process?

    What qualifies a few parents to speak on behalf of all parents?

    Reply
      1. a friend of education

        To build an effective advisory group, I’d select parents who’ve raised special education children here in our state. I’d do my best to select smart, knowledgeable folks. Some rural, some urban. Folks who are by temperament civil and cooperative. I’d politely exclude those who recently moved to SD (i.e. in the last 2-3 years), although I’d welcome their input later, once they’ve acquired more experience regarding what’s done in local schools. I’d focus on SD parents who’ve raised special needs children for at least 5-6 years because these families possess greater experience. Volunteers should be parents passionate enough to drive to in-person meetings without seeking travel reimbursement. No career bureaucrats. No felons.

        It’ll take some work to set up. Rome wasn’t built in a day & I’m not claiming the aforesaid would produce a prefect group. What other criteria would you suggest?

        Reply
        1. Anonymous

          Parents recently relocated from outside SD would probably be just as, if not more knowledgeable. More likely to have been in a few districts and have larger pool of knowledge to draw upon. Especially considering SD is not a leader in anything education related.

          Reply
          1. Troy Jones

            Thanks for your comment. I now think you have to be here for at least 5 years to be on the committee.

            FOE: I’m not even interested in being polite either after that comment.

            Reply
  3. Troy Jones

    I think there needs to be more changes:

    1) One parent of a non-mainstreamed child and one parent of a mainstreamed student.

    2) We need to quit appointing by side of the River. A RC Super and a SF Super does not contribute to difference of thought or problems. The Supers should be one from a large school (one’s which are retail centers and draw people in for a variety of services), one from a mid-size rural school (where the citizens travel for retail and services, and one from an isolated small school. What we need to know is how to construct programs where the child is a resident of home, has to travel, and where travel could be prohibitive (either to get service or requires parental move of some type).

    3) A special ed teacher (mainstream) and one who provides home services (pediatric physical or occupational therapist).

    4) I need to understand the rationale of the “person who is an advocate” is supposed to contribute at this stage. I see all such persons and organizations with such a mission to be weighing in throughout the process. Not sure why one specialist should be selected when the needs are broad.

    5) I know this is potentially appear to be a conflict with #4 but I think there should be someone whose expertise is life-skills when they become adults. I think it is import to have one person at the table who is thinking about the next stage. We only have so much time and should make sure the effort is on the most critical skills so the most can live as independent as possible. Focus on reading? Focus on math? Focus on communication? Focus on something else?

    6) I’d combine the Sec. of Ed. and Governor’s picks so you can keep the size at 12.

    7) I need to understand why the direction to appoint Committee chairs vs. the Legislators with the best subject matter expertise. Otherwise, why not just have one legislator and let the body appoint more lay people?

    Reply
  4. a friend of education

    Troy wrote: “I think there should be someone whose expertise is life-skills when they become adults. I think it is import to have one person at the table who is thinking about the next stage…”

    Smart idea & good suggestion.

    Reply
  5. Troy Jones

    Three other comments:

    1) Maybe one of the Governor/Secretary’s picks should be a person who is well-informed with the financing of special eduction (federal, state, local, private programs which often are used in concert). BTW, who might be a career bureaucrat. 🙂

    2) I agree with FOE’s comment with one exception: I think the members should get state per diem. Probably more than any group, families with disabilities have financial challenges not imagined by any other family situation. I’d hate to have a parent with great ideas and experience not involved because we won’t pay them a per diem.

    3) Professionally, I’ve been involved in many corporate initiatives/study groups/task forces to solve either cross-functional issues or narrow subject matters requiring specific expertise. Sometimes, once the goal is accomplished, the group disbands and overtime the results dissipate. Othertimes, the group stays in place well beyond what is needed and the solution becomes a problem. Not long ago, I read a management article the suggested a middle ground- A very small group of original members who continue to monitor the situation with a goal to prevent ossification or dissipation. In this case, a super, a parent and a teacher could annually get together with the ability to invite expert testimony and inviting tweaks/commentary.

    Reply
  6. a friend of education

    “a person who is well-informed with the financing of special eduction (federal, state, local, private programs which often are used in concert). BTW, who might be a career bureaucrat.”

    That’s a solid point. Each committee needs at least one member who understands the funding labyrinth, much as one might wish that weren’t so.

    Reply
  7. Troy Jones

    FOE: “Each committee needs at least one member who understands the funding labyrinth, much as one might wish that weren’t so.”

    That is true but even more so with this Task Force since one of the primary objectives to figure out how to get more efficient/less expensive. What is really good about this objective is it also highlights something government doesn’t do as well as the private sector- manage growth.

    Business is in perpetual re-evaluation of efficiency (doing the same thing better and cheaper), re-prioritizing efforts (doing more of what works and less of what doesn’t), and exercising creative destruction (killing one thing and doing another). Government always attacks its problems linearly (if need doubles, double funding) which does a disservice to the taxpayers and the beneficiaries.

    Reply

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