As a parent of two children with special needs and a member of OUSD's Community Advisory Committee (CAC), I am very concerned about the education of our children.
The OUSD Special Education program, Programs for Exceptional Children (PEC), is suffering unprecedented cuts, and the elimination of basic supports and services, that will drastically affect our children at the start of the 2012-2013 school year and for years to come. The cuts attack what is most basic to Special Education in OUSD and will deny many children their right to a Free and Appropriate Education. Special Education ensures that Children with Disabilities receive an appropriate education through specialized supports.
• The District's plan is to increase the size of Special Day Classes, though they are already opening with 16 or more students. Special Education requires a small student-to-teacher ratio.
• The District's plan is to not rehire Special Education aides who separate from OUSD, though nearly a fifth of all Special Education classrooms are already short-staffed. Special Education requires that teacher and aide positions be fully staffed.
• The District's plan is to max out Resource caseloads to the state cap of 28 students, which could mean all Resource Specialists traveling among 2-3 school sites to serve students in up to eight different grades. Special Education requires that Special Education staff is not spread across many sites so that they can be full members of school communities and collaborate to serve and integrate children with Special Needs.
• The District's plan is to "consolidate" all the Program Specialists and to rehire a reduced force at an undetermined time. Special Education requires that students and programs are fully a part of school communities and that they are not suddenly torn from sites in the name of consolidation.
• The District doesn't plan to have any Program Specialists when school opens in the fall and there are no plans in place to fill in for their duties. Special Education requires knowledgeable Program Specialists who support the collaboration of families, staff, and administrators and who coordinate services.
Who will help parents when students need different programs to meet their needs or when there is a serious safety concern that needs immediate attention? Who steps in when bus service gets messed up and a student gets sent to the wrong school or doesn't get picked up at all?
We oppose the proposed Special Education budget because it will irreparably harm our children.
We call for the reinstatement of all of the Program Specialists.
We ask that Special Education in OUSD be funded at or above its current level to ensure its stability and allow for future improvements.
THESE CHANGES VIOLATE BASIC RIGHTS to a FREE AND APPROPRIATE EDUCATION.
For information on the OUSD Community Advisory Committee and more ways that you can participate or voice your opinion on these proposed budget cuts, please go to our wiki page at http://oaklandcac.pbworks.com.