Ohio legislature wants Special Ed "scholarships"? Damn well better give us Gifted Ed "scholarships" first

A couple of weeks ago, Brewed Fresh Daily hosted this lengthy thread about something that the original post called a special education scholarship. Read it completely if you’re interested in understanding pro and con perspectives.

Now, I’m not certain if those scholarships are the same as the special ed vouchers in Pho’s good post with good links here, regarding today’s passage in the senate committee responsible for the budget bill and how special ed vouchers are back in. (Gov. Strickland wanted them eliminated and he can still do so with a line item veto.) But, this information (under Item #3, about halfway through that item) from the OAAE (Ohio Alliance for Arts Education) seems to indicate that the scholarships are exactly the same thing as the vouchers in HB 119.

Even if they aren’t, I have to believe that they are related or at least supported by the same groups. Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but basically, “voucher” replaces the word “scholarship.”

What do I think? I need to pow-wow with OPEN (Orange Parents Education Network) board and members to hear more about their opinions on this.

But off the top of my head:

If kids on IEPs get vouchers simply because they’re on an IEP, then all gifted kids on WEPs should get them too, with nothing more than the WEP. In fact, they deserve those vouchers even more because currently, educating gifted kids in any school continues to be one of the largest if not the largest unfunded mandate in education, period. (largest in terms of number of people affected as well as the money that must be found elsewhere if the statutes are to be followed)

Kids on IEPs have access to billions of dollars worth of assistance through the federal government alone (more than $10 billion in FY 2007 according to information in that link). Gifted kids? President Bush has tried to kill off the lousy $11 million for the Javits money every single year of his presidency. And it appears he succeeded this year.

There’s a story I can’t tell about making someone pay twice if they want to do something they know isn’t really okay, if we’re all going to say that we play by the same rules. Funding “scholarships” for kids whose education is already covered by the feds, in addition to the state and local government, should not happen unless we’re going to okay the exact same provisions for “scholarships” for kids whose education – gifted – is not covered by anyone.

10 thoughts on “Ohio legislature wants Special Ed "scholarships"? Damn well better give us Gifted Ed "scholarships" first

  1. Anon – thanks for reading and commenting. Let’s see:1. If it’s hard to listen, excuse for suggesting that you not read. But frankly, as a taxpayer and supporter of the schools, I fail to see why my desire to have my kids’ needs met should be any less ardent than anyone elses. I’m a parent, you know?2. On IDEA, I’m not going to look it up and will trust you. As I indicated, I wasn’t aware that public school districts were required to service kids with special needs starting at 3 – I think that’s great and I hope the districts get federal funding for that mandate.3. I’ve only ever lived in Cuyahoga County. I’ve not read any stories (and confess that I haven’t looked for them) regarding how many counties provide what Cuyahoga provides. I don’t know if this county is considered “great” in these terms but I know that many parents in my district use the CSERC services for kids on IEPs. 4. You wrote: “Thankfully, we were able to afford to move to a much better school district in the Columbus area and our daughter is going to be in a typical kindegarten classroom with an aide. We are fortunate to live in one of the best school districts in the country. However, many people are not that lucky. And that is where the scholarship comes in.”See – we have a lot more in common than you might believe. I’m exactly the same kind of parent. We moved to the best district we could afford after studying the variety of services that different districts in this county offer for gifted kids. My son is far too unique to be at a private school because they are so cookie cutter and don’t even have gifted resource specialists because, as they tell everyone, all their kids are above the average bell curve (as I bet you might guess, that’s hardly the case across the board at such schools, but it’s the line they give). 5. Regarding your point #4: Since you’re remaining anonymous, I don’t know if you’re a regular reader here or not, so I apologize if I’m writing things you already know.First, I worked at Bellefaire (a children and family mental health agency in Shaker Hts) for eight years and did the initial research to help them create their school for autism. For eight years now, I’ve been on the board of a parents’ group that helps parents and families of kids all along the exceptional spectrum.And, through being a lawyer and social worker, I’ve met similarly focused professionals, including at least two fantastic lawyers who’ve dedicated their careers to pro-bono and low income representation completely in the field of special ed law. There ARE people willing to help parents and kids who need to fight the schools. One of my responsibilities was to sit in on conference calls to review IEPs for kids at Bellefaire from outside Ohio. I really do know a little about this – it’s not foreign to me.It’s why I was very happy to see that the US Supreme Court decided that parents didn’t have to get lawyers to take districts to courts. Sure, it’s still an unequal burden on families, but now at least the districts’ threat, “Take us to court” is AS onerous as it would be if the parents HAD to get lawyers (by law).6. You are being way too conservative on the cost of the private autism schools. Bellefaire is something like $60K!!7. You wrote: “I am sorry that you feel your gifted children are slighted. I only wish my daugther had to deal with such things. Instead, she is six and already has grey hair from the six times she has had to have eye and brain surgery. She will have an uphill battle her entire life, no matter where she attends school.”I don’t know you or who you are, but I think that maybe you don’t or shouldn’t really mean this. I will not go into the devastating and life-changing experiences we’ve had as parents to a profoundly gifted child, but I promise you, the challenges are fraught with life-threatening incidents. If you want to email me privately, I’d be more inclined to share what I’m referring to. Otherwise, you’ll have to trust that I’m being honest – I wouldn’t wish what we’ve been through with my son on my worst enemy.And your last paragraph: I’m not sure why you find it offensive that I use the word accommodate. That’s the language that’s used – what would you prefer? It has nothing to do with politics – it’s whats in the law about education provision. If, as I’m inferring from your last couple of sentences, you really believe that children with special needs should get financial acknowledgement from the state of Ohio for those needs, then for sure you should support such scholarships being approved for gifted kids: the Ohio Department of Education places the oversight for gifted education in the same office as that for special needs: the Office for Exceptional Children. It’s been that way for more than seven years, after the state of Ohio eliminated the separate section for gifted.What is luckiest about your child and mine is that they have parents like us who care this much. Think about the kids whose parents don’t. I wish you luck in procuring all that you desire for your child. I would have hoped you’d wish me the same, as a parent, but I don’t get that sense from what you’ve written. You seem quite biased against children who have needs on the other end of the spectrum.

  2. First, let me say that it is hard to listen to you complain about your gifted children losing out on opportunities. Sorry for your hardships.First, let me point out a few facts to you:1. Under Part C of IDEA, all children who qualify for services, must be given them by their school district beginning at age three. 2. You must live in a great county, because all counties in Ohio do not have the money that yours does. Funding for Early Intervention Services (birth to 3) varies by county, based on the amount of money that each county can provide. Some counties (88 in Ohio) do not provide any intervention services–and under state law, they are not required to–if they do not have money to fund such services. Yes, this is *absolutely true*: some children do not receive *any* intervention services until they reach age 3. This means no physical, occupational, speech therapies, psychological services, etc. 3. Yes, it is true that under a program called “Child Find,” school districts do seek out children to receive services. However, this does not mean all school districts do this, and it also does not mean that a child is receiving appropriate services. What I mean by appropriate services is placement in a classroom that is commesurate with a child’s abilities. Some school districts are so large that a child, based simply on the category for which they qualify once they hit kindegarten age, will be placed in a classroom for children with the same classificiation. My daughter, for example, is classified at “Multi-Disabled” because when she attends kindegarten, she will receive speech, occupational, and physical therapy and social skills classes: hence the “multi-disabled.” In a large school district, she would automatically be placed in a MD classroom, which would also have children who are MD classified. This, however, would not be appropriate because she is academically on target with other five and six-year-olds. MD classrooms often have modified curriculums, since most children who receive all of these therapies are academically behind as well. My daughter is not. Thankfully, we were able to afford to move to a much better school district in the Columbus area and our daughter is going to be in a typical kindegarten classroom with an aide. We are fortunate to live in one of the best school districts in the country. However, many people are not that lucky. And that is where the scholarship comes in. For people whose children are placed in a “one category fits all” school–usually in extremely large school districts–and they do not have the financial resources to move to smaller, more affluent schools, they are forced to accept what is often an IEP that is not fully appropriate for the child. And yes, it is true that parents sign off on an IEP, but school districts do not bend over backwards for children with special needs. It may seem hard to believe, but many school districts do not like having to spend so much money on “accomodating” these children (your term). This is not about making a special room for the kids who ride the short bus, but allowing these children, through no fault of their own, to work to their greatest potential. And that does cost money.And as everyone knows, school districts do not willingly hand out money.5. Many charter schools do not use an IEP for the special needs students. They usually draw up a contract of some sort that is not an IEP in order for the child to receive the services. This is the same for private schoools that are specifically for children with autism (all of which have lenghty wait lists in Central Ohio, I can attest). They all have therapists on staff, and money from the autism scholarship goes to help fund the school and therapists. Many children with autism need to be taught in ways that are one-on-one all day long. Not many school districts can provide such services. This is why the scholarship was developed. The autism schools have tuition of over $15k a year in order to help children with autism unlock and work to their highest potential. 6. Last, for the best argument for a special needs scholarship, I would suggest you read about: James v. Upper Arlington School District. UA has one of the best school districts in Ohio, and even all the money they spend on their students did not help this young man who is dyslexic. I am sorry that you feel your gifted children are slighted. I only wish my daugther had to deal with such things. Instead, she is six and already has grey hair from the six times she has had to have eye and brain surgery. She will have an uphill battle her entire life, no matter where she attends school.Quite honestly, I do not think a special needs scholarship would be appropriate for her, but I think that a child, for example, whop has cerebral palsy and needs a nurse for feeding and hygiene, should not be kept from attending a private school because that school does not have the money to provide a nurse. The scholarship would allow the school to pay for a nurse . These are also the types of things that are on IEP’s. I do find it offensive that you discuss the laws that are in place to “accomodate” special needs children. It just shows that your argument is politically based. This proposed scholarship is not a “handout” as you suggest; in fact, I don’t think that there willl be lines out the doors for a check for $20k. But I do pay my share of taxes too and feel that my child should be able to attend a school that fits her acadmeic abilities and her special needs. Such a scholarship is an acknowledgement that many children with special needs do not receive the appropriate services they deserve.

  3. Anon – don’t take this the wrong way, but what you’ve written sounds rather generic – that is, I feel like I’ve read it before. I hope you’re not just taking some stuff from somewhere and plastering it here, but that it represents your experience.I say this because what you’ve written ignores numerous realities in Ohio that mitigate much of what you’re saying and, instead, what you’ve written is the political line given to get this voucher money support. But, I’ll try to be a believer and point out what I find not so credible in what you’ve written:1. I didn’t think school districts were required to provide services to kids as young as three – but I could be wrong.2. In Ohio, counties have departments of MRDD that serve kids that young – I know because my neighbors had preemie triplets who all received services. 3. In my school district, they SEEK OUT kids in need of services. They test, for free, at least once a year, kids from 2 yrs 10 mos. to five. Two of my three went through it and it was very helpful. THEN, they have a special integrated program that has special needs kids and regular students. It’s been around for nearly 10 years I think.4. The district didn’t provide you services because they didn’t have the funds to provide them for…all three year olds? You lost me on this point.5. You say that if the autism scholarship is used then the public school district no longer has anything to do with the child. But that doesn’t sound right. That would only be the case if the school is an independent private school. If it’s a charter school, then the district is still responsible.But I’m also not sure of your point in this point. Such a thing would be true for anyone choosing an independent private school – why would the kids with autism be treated differently if they choose a indie private?6. What do you mean “a school district may not be an appropriate place for a child”? Do you mean that it’s not what the family wants? Or that it doesn’t have the services? The way IDEA works, from what I know, is that the IEP is done, the parents have to sign off on it and the district must provide services. Now, parents and the district may disagree on what a child needs and that’s where the due process hearings come into play. But the system provides for parents to push the district to meet the needs – though the parents have a burden to show that what they think is necessary is what the school should provide. That’s my understanding anyway – feel free to explain more.7. Finally, in regard to the financial burden to the parents, any funds that a parent can get from another source will lighten the load – no argument there. But why special ed kids? Why not gifted kids, who get nothing at all now except when legislators feel like it, since the law doesn’t require educating gifted kids to their needs the way the federal law requires it for special needs kids? Do you have any idea how many kids lose out and malinger because their gifted needs aren’t met? I’d be happy to pass onto you my bills for the extraordinary care my gifted kids have needed. Not to mention the emotional and mental costs we’ve endured.The public school system is far from perfect. But the federal, state and lcoal laws exist to make it a place in which special needs kids can be accommodated. If parents want the child to be at an indie private or parochial school, then that’s a parents’ choice. I’m not convinced of why the scholarship is any different from just a simple handout that no one else woudl get so that they can make a personal choice and defray costs.I’m sorry for your hardships related to your child, truly. But no one has made an argument yet for how such a program benefits Ohio.

  4. I am a parent with a child with a medical disability and, as a result of brain damage, a cognitive learning disability. When my daughter turned three, our school district refused to give her services because our daughter fell into an “average” range, albeit a low average range. We were advised to wait until she fell even further behind in the fall to have her reevalauted. In short, the school districts do not always have the money to fund all children with special needs–regardless of the type of need. In Ohio, there is an autism scholarship. If a family chooses to accept the scholarship, the recipient reliquishes all ties with his school district. The school the child chooses to attend–usually a school specifically designed for children with autism–is fully responsible for that student’s learning. The school district no longer has anything to do with that student. While there is a danger with pidgeon-holing students–putting one type of need as more important than another–many of the special needs student–it is important to recognize that a school district may not be an appropriate place for a child. My husband and I both work, we make a good living wage, and still we have large medical bills that at times can become difficult to manage. While $20k seems like a lot of money, it can dry up quickly when it comes to paying for a private school (and not just a Catholic one as is a common misconception) and having therapists, nurses, etc. on staff. Just because a child does have a special need, it doesn’t always mean that the local school district can take care of those needs–be it physical, academic, or emotional. However, the local school district may be the only place available to the parents for the child. A scholarship can allow for the appropriate placement for a child without being a larger finanical burden to the parents.

  5. Here’s the problem I have with the current system, if you have a special needs child and you are unhappy with your local public school and you take advantage of this voucher to send them to a charter school or a private school then two months into it find out you were misled as to what type of education your special needs child is getting? When the public school takes your child back since they are required to do so, the money stays at the charter or private school.School funding whether it is by voucher or tax dollars should be done at least on a semester basis as opposed to yearly. From what I’m learning about Toledo’s Public School System that is a huge problem for them and drives up the costs since whether the child is special needs or not, the money doesn’t follow them when they switch.

  6. It’s easy to kill off extra funding for gifted students. After all – they’re already smart! Why do they need extra money?When I was a wee lad, I attended Catholic school, where I had severe attention problems in class. Nowadays, I probably would have been medicated. Back then, the school thought I had a learning disability. My mother – at the time, a teacher in a public school district for developmentally handicapped kids – strongly disagreed. Testing showed I was gifted, and the Catholic school basically said “good for you – but we can’t do anything special for you.” So off I went to the public school system, which had an excellent one-day-a-week pullout program for gifted kids.Every kid is different, but when you get to the ends of the bell curve, you get kids that just can’t be properly educated in a “standard” classroom with the “normal” kids. Gifted kids are woefully neglected. I wouldn’t mind tying funding for the low end to funding for the high end, with the aim of increasing funding for the high end. I’m afraid it’d end up killing funding for the low end.

  7. It’s easy to kill off extra funding for gifted students. After all – they’re already smart! Why do they need extra money?When I was a wee lad, I attended Catholic school, where I had severe attention problems in class. Nowadays, I probably would have been medicated. Back then, the school thought I had a learning disability. My mother – at the time, a teacher in a public school district for developmentally handicapped kids – strongly disagreed. Testing showed I was gifted, and the Catholic school basically said “good for you – but we can’t do anything special for you.” So off I went to the public school system, which had an excellent one-day-a-week pullout program for gifted kids.Every kid is different, but when you get to the ends of the bell curve, you get kids that just can’t be properly educated in a “standard” classroom with the “normal” kids. Gifted kids are woefully neglected. I wouldn’t mind tying funding for the low end to funding for the high end, with the aim of increasing funding for the high end. I’m afraid it’d end up killing funding for the low end.

  8. There aren’t any vouchers for the gifted/talented because there’s no money to be made off of the gifted/talented students as things are funded now. The charters (or whoever gets the special ed students) see them as dollar signs that bring in even more money. It’s, sadly, not about providing money for a better education. It’s about the legislature taking care of their friends.*cough*Brennan*cough*.

  9. Shalom Jill,When I’m asked what kind of students I teach I’ve come to answer: special-needs students.And most people assume that means students with some kind of learning disability.But when I explain the range of students I work with I watch for the little light to go on; for them to realize that every single student has particular needs and that a warehousing, industrial-economy, one-size-fits-all approach to education is just so last century.Every student benefits from particular attention. It’s not that some need more attention than others; its that they all need the kind of attention you can’t get in a class with 24 other students.B’shalom,Jeff

  10. It’s the same thing. The voucher program is called the Special Education Scholarship Pilot Program. Don’t know if George’s sister asked him to post because she got the memo, but the Catholic schools were lobbying hard for it.One point I didn’t make in my post: the amount of the voucher is the money the state pays as the state share for the kid based on disability up to 20 thousand dollars.

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