Call to Action: States Attacking Special Education

Calling the Parents, Caregivers, Teachers, Clinicians and Anyone who cares about SIX MILLION STUDENTS with likely in-effective IEPs.


Folks, we are in the most deplorable times for students with disabilities. A Federal law that is not even one-half century old is eroding, and now we have a new foe, a new enemy and right in your backyard.  Our State Departments of Education across the United States are both loudly and insidiously destroying “State-imposed” Special Education Rules. These are the “rules” that guide and govern the special education teacher caseloads, special education programs and program sizes, and even the percentage of students with IEPs who can be in a general education class at one time.


State by State from Iowa, to Illinois, to New York, & Michigan and spreading across the U.S., State-imposed special education rules are under attack and this is only growing in strength.

How many are aware that in the mid-1990 and during the Clinton Administration that Iowa requested a “waiver” to become a “non-categorical” state. What does this mean? This means that students with IEPs are one homogenized brand of disability. The thirteen areas of Federal special education eligibility have ceased to exist. There is no “I”. There is no “Unique.” There is only one kind of student with a disability, a student with a disability.  And this waiver was granted by Thomas Hehir, Director of the Office of Special Education Programs.

One signature and a hallmark of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was “waived away.” How does that work? How did that happen without a Public Comment period? How did a friendly waiver from OSEP override a Federal law?  Where is the integrity in Federal law when a waiver issued without transparency is granted?  There is no integrity.  I am still waiting to find out how this could have happened in the Great State of Iowa. Clearly not so great for students with special needs.


Moving on to Illinois…Chris Koch, IL State Superintendent has been working overtime to eliminate special education program sizes, teacher caseloads, a cap on the number of students with IEPs allowed to be in a general education class at one time (70/30 rule) and give local control to school districts to determine special education staffing annually.  This did not escape notice of parents, and advocates in Illinois and in other States. This did not escape the notice of BATS and the Chicago Teacher’s Union.  We worked tirelessly and drove a total of six-thousand comments, and with the full support of the IL State Board of Education (A shout-out to Chair Gery Chico!), we shut down Mr. Koch and his regressive and deplorable rule revisions.


Michigan is another matter.  Governor Snider has been clear for three painful years that he wants all State-imposed rules gone and un-Special Education is now on the chopping block.  The MI Dept. of Ed has proposed the big Kahuna of revisions and is looking to eliminate all accountability.  The MI Dept. of Ed is proposing local control for school districts to determine special education staffing annually; along with lowering the bar of expectations for paraprofessionals and pushing students out of school at the end of the 12th Grade.  I guess the MDE has a vision impairment and did not catch the 63-percent or 9-percent increase in the number of students with disabilities earning a diploma at the end of their 5th year of high school, versus the 53-percent graduating in four. Even then the U.S. DOE has set an expectation that 80-percent of students with IEPs will graduate with a diploma, and in MI there is no way that will happen without an overhaul to teacher preparation, an infusion of money and a lobotomy to change disbelieving mindsets. Even the kiddos earning a diploma are too often earning them with D’s and proficiency levels in reading, writing and math that are not in the same stratosphere as vocational school, community college or four-year universities.

This “rules” package will be released in the next few days or weeks, and Michiganders with the help from some national stakeholders will attack like never before.

…And then there is New York. New York is pushing to give students with IEPs out of level testing. In reality this would mean that students with disabilities never have to make measurable growth. I will insert a disclaimer and admit that standardized testing given by states is worthless for students with disabilities. There is not a State that has a battery of assessments designed to test student’s knowledge and the Common Core State Standards driven by corporate America are only making it worse, but that is the topic for another blog!

My point you ask?  States across the U.S. are attacking the special education laws, rules and policies that have given a glimmer of dimming hope that students with IEPs might someday receive truly meaningful educational benefit and be prepared for the global workforce.

National stakeholders can no longer focus only on the IDEA and Federal legislative and policymaking initiatives. National stakeholders must get involved at the State level and work to ward off these attacks on State-imposed rules.

….I am still waiting for an answer, on how Iowa more than two decades ago, removed the “I” in IEP and turned every student with an IEP into a Stepford student with a disability.  When Hillary Clinton runs for President in 2016 maybe she can ask Bill how this happened on his watch.

Inaction is not an option; the silence is not working.

























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