A growing number of children needing special-education services, coupled with a diminishing amount of money to meet those needs, is creating problems in Jordan School District.
Ralph Haws, administrator of educational program services, presented a "doom-and-gloom" report Tuesday to the district's school board, saying that budget cuts are approaching a critical level that could open the district to lawsuits."We have a long history of quality programs and have been able to keep pace," Haws said, "but now there are some concerns."
Declining budgets for special-education programs will result next year in several service cuts, Haws said, including:
Reduction in the number of aides in special classes.
Use of minimal administrative staff.
Use of fewer certificated personnel and more paraprofessionals in classrooms. Only minimum staff development will be provided.
Elimination of 16 resource teachers in junior high schools and high schools. Each school's resource staff will be cut by one teacher, except for those schools that now have only two such staff people.
Reduction or elimination of resource services for several hundred secondary level students. Youngsters receiving special help are now being re-evaluated, and some will be dropped from resource programs.
Curtailed or frozen supply and equipment budgets.
Haws said the district is not meeting the needs of all those students who could qualify under federal and state guidelines. The maximum allowed is 12.18 percent of the entire student population. Only 9.39 percent of the district students are in special-education programs, and that will decline to 7.9 next year.
The district is also expected to provide special education for handicapped children 3 to 5 years old, beginning with the upcoming school year, based on a legislative mandate passed this winter.
The district will receive some money that had been allocated to Social Services for the preschool-age group and a portion of the transportation money appropriated by the 1988 Legislature, but the money will not cover the costs of the added program, Haws said.
"They want us to serve twice as many kids with half as much money," he said.
He told board members he fears the program reductions could subject the district to litigation. Under federal laws, special services must be provided for handicapped students, and parents may begin to feel short-changed as the scope and quality of services declines.
The federal government has not, however, provided the money that was to accompany the requirement for special services. Across the country, school districts are getting only about 8 to 9 percent of the money from the federal government, which had promised to supply 40 percent of the funding.
"We are trying to meet the needs and wishes of parents within the limits of the district. We try to get students as close to home as possible," he said. Court decisions have upheld the right of school districts to "cluster" special needs in particular schools, even if they are outside the neighborhoods of individual students, he said.
It would take $676,355 to continue Jordan's special-education services at the present level. Next year, an additional $700,000 shortfall is expected, he said.
Board President Maurine Jensen accepted the report, which she said is both sobering and saddening, on behalf of the board.