This time of year, we are creating Individualized Education Program (IEP) teams and preparing for annual meetings for our kids. The subject of IEP team creation has come up in our district. An administrator noticed that budgets for last year had to be increased for SPED because of a very liberal IEP team that wrote expensive equipment into their program. A challenge for all districts: how do you find a balance between providing services and maintaining budgets? There are some promising new software solutions for some of the more common learning disabilities, but they are expensive and untried. Is it worth the investment? Can we find more cost effective solutions for similar problems?
The quick answer is, “Of course it’s worth the investment; we shouldn’t skimp on our kids.” The real answer is more complicated and deserves study and review.
IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) describes the IEP team as including:
- The parents of the child
- Not less than one regular education teacher of the child (if the child is, or may be, participating in the regular education environment)
- Not less than one special education teacher of the child, or where appropriate, not less than one special education provider of the child
- A representative of the public agency who is qualified to provide or supervise the provision of specially designed instruction to meet the unique needs of children with disabilities, knowledgeable about the general education curriculum and knowledgeable about the available resources of the public agency
- An individual who can interpret the instructional implications of evaluation results
- Other individuals who have knowledge or special expertise regarding the child, including related services personnel as appropriate (invited at the discretion of the parent or the agency)
- The child with a disability (when appropriate)
I’d like to focus on the individual who can “interpret the instructional implications of evaluation results.” Our superintendent has asked if this person is properly trained to deliver this service. He is supportive of district teams in general, but his responsibility is to stay within budget. The evaluation of services is an ongoing job, and it can’t be delegated to just one person, especially in large districts. You may have an “evaluation specialist” that attends your meetings, and you would hope that person has thoroughly evaluated new programs and equipment, but there aren’t always enough hours in the day.
Since 94-142 laws and their amendments have been written, the costs for special education services have soared. Providing programs and equipment to support the least restrictive environment language in the federal law has created a huge business for publishers and software companies. Are we too eager to jump on bandwagons without study?
If you’ve ever attended a sales meeting for large publishing company sales reps to come and show their wares, you know how tempting this is. The presentations are slick, and the statistics they throw around make it sound like their products are the only solutions for some of the more challenging disabilities and behaviors we see that cause referrals for SPED services at the classroom teacher’s level.
This subject deserves careful attention, and a single blog will not cover it adequately. I’ve collected some resources for you to review if this blog opens the dialogue for your teams.
- Review of Budget Issues
- Building an Effective IEP Team; Wrights law (a great source of legal interpretations)
- Seven Habits of Effective Teams
- Keeping Costs in Check
- 10 Best Opportunities for SPED Budget Review
Tell us if your district has a plan in place for reviewing SPED budgets and maintaining great educational services.