In Virginia, most school districts have been able to weather the special education funding cuts so far by not replacing teachers who leave, according to John Eisenberg, assistant superintendent for special education and student services. Many school systems have also reduced or eliminated staff development, which is critical in special education.
“There’s constant change in the field in terms of making sure folks are up to speed and are using research-based practices for students,” Eisenberg said. “As we have learned more and more about things like autism, the field has changed. Getting teachers trained in the most recent research-based practices is critical.”
Virginia schools have also reported big cuts in budgets for materials and technologies to support students with disabilities, which can include electronic devices to help nonverbal students communicate, technology to help students who are hearing-impaired and computers to enlarge text, for example.
In Florida, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties found the money to keep their special education programming intact. But nearby Broward County this year eliminated five of 11 behavior specialists, 10 program specialists and an assistive technology position, according to Mark Halpert, director of the Florida Advocacy Coalition for Learning Disabilities.
Halpert worries about the damage a second year of sequestration could inflict.
“These kids are smart – they learn differently, have challenges and can be enormously successful,” Halpert said. “We owe it as a society to help them succeed.”
Estimated reductions in dollars in federal funding to the states in fiscal year 2013 for Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Part B Grants, following 5 percent sequestration cuts.
Source: U.S. Department of Education
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