Feds have concerns with judge’s special education ruling
The U.S. Department of Education wrote the state’s education commissioner this week to shareÂ concerns aboutÂ a state judge’s orderÂ telling Connecticut lawmakersÂ to reassessÂ what level of services students with significant disabilities are entitled to.
After spending months hearingÂ testimonyÂ about the quality ofÂ education being provided inÂ the state’s most troubled schools, Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher characterized special education spending as being “adrift.”
MoukawsherÂ found fault with large sums going toward “those in special education who cannot receive any form of elementary or secondary education… School officials never consider the possibility that the education appropriate for some students may be extremely limited because they are too profoundly disabled to get any benefit from an elementary or secondary education.”
The U.S. Department of Education took issue with his ruling, saying it was concerned with those portions thatÂ “suggest that a school district need not provide programming or services to all [special education]-eligible children in all areas of need.” Ruth E. Ryder, the acting director of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs pointed to various federal court rulings requiring school districts to provide services for all the needs of disabled students, including academic, physical, emotional or social Â needs, so that they haveÂ an opportunity to learn.
“Contrary to the lower court’s view, Connecticut and its school districts may not choose to provide special education and related services only for those students whom local educators believe may ostensibly benefit more from a traditional, elementary or secondary academic program,” Ryder wrote. “Rather, they have an obligation to provide special education and related services to all eligible children with disabilities, including children with more severe or significant disabilities.”
Federal lawÂ requires school districts to provide an âappropriate educationâ to disabled students â butÂ what exactly that means is unclear.Â Federal courts areÂ dividedÂ on the issue. Â The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments in January over what kind of services must be provided to a Colorado student with autism.
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