Friday, April 14, 2000
Statewide, a growing demand for special education services
The Carlisle School Committee received a summary of remarks presented at the January Legislative Forum by Education Collaborative for Greater Boston Executive Director Dr. Thomas Scott, the former Concord superintendent. The remarks note that according to recent figures, the Massachusetts state budget supports approximately 26 percent of special education services, less than half of the national state average. Regular education services and programs for all students are being impacted by the increased costs of special education services. Deinstitutionalization in the 70s provided savings to the states but transferred costs to local school districts. He suggested increased medical insurance should be sought.
A medical perspective was provided by David K. Urion, M.D., director of the learning disabilities/behavioral neurology program at Harvard Medical School and member of the faculty at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He stated that 50,000 children are born each year weighing less than 3.3 pounds; 85 percent survive to school age. Of these, 15 percent have mental retardation and major motor deficits; 85 percent have medical issues relevant to the school day. Finally, conservative estimates suggest that 7.5 percent of the school-age population has a medical diagnosis of such impact that the child cannot prosper without appropriate assistance in school.
Ominous trends show that in the past ten years there has been an 83 percent increase in special needs preschool enrollments. From 1992-96, there has been a 156-percent increase in 0-3-year-olds with significant disabilities served by Early Intervention Programs. From 1982-1997 there has been a 186-percent increase in child maltreatment reports.
At the Carlisle School Committee meeting on April 4 Superintendent Davida Fox-Melanson said that the school was very fortunate to have Dr. Linda Stapp as the director of special education. "It is difficult to determine who receives special services. It is a very complicated process to ensure that students make educational progress and determine what services can be most effective in the process. Exultant in her praise for Stapp, Fox-Melanson said, "What a treasure she is."
Member Cindy Nock pointed out that local school systems need more money to cover the mandates coming from the State Department of Education, which is in the process of changing its standards of qualification for services. She said it is also unclear whether towns will receive increased funding from the state to cover more of the actual costs for special education students.
© 2000 The Carlisle Mosquito