I've received a white paper dated February 22, 2013, from a coalition of stakeholders opposed to this change (I don't yet have a link to get my readers a copy, but I'm working on it). Members include:
So this isn't just the teachers union complaining; these groups represent the core of special education advocacy in the state. Why are they so concerned with this change?
- Disability Rights New Jersey (DRNJ)
- Education Law Center (ELC)
- NJ Association of Learning Consultants (NJALC)
- NJ Association of School Psychologists (NJASP)
- NJ Association of School Social Workers (NJASSW)
- NJ Association of Speech Language Specialists (NJASLS)
- NJ Parent Advocates
- New Jersey Education Association (NJEA)
- NJ Special Education Practitioners
- Special Education Clinic at Rutgers University School of Law - Newark
- Special Education Leadership Council of NJ
- Statewide Parent Advocacy Network (SPAN)
- The Arc of New Jersey
To answer, let's look at the Task Force's report, and their reasons for suggesting the amendment. Here's the original language from the NJ state code, with the Task Force's additions underlined:
Wait a minute: the Task Force wants districts to be able to contract out special education services? Why? Well, here's their explanation:N.J.A.C. § 6A:14-3.1(b) General requirements"Child study team members shall include a school psychologist, a learning disabilities teacher consultant and a school social worker. All child study team members shall be employees of a district board of education or under contract with a school district in accordance with N.J.A.C. 6A:14-S.1, shall have an identifiable, apportioned time commitment to the local school districtand shall be available to provide all needed services during the hours students are in attendance."
But if districts if you need more personnel, why not just hire them? Shouldn't case managers have a connection to their schools and communities? The coalition above seems to think so; here's their commentary:The Department and State Board should amend this regulation to increase flexibility by allowing school districts to contract for additional child study team members when such individuals are needed to supplement existing child study teams. School districts may contract with local educational agencies including other local school districts, educational services commissions, jointure commissions, and county special services school districts. This flexibility would give districts greater flexibility in providing child study team services while still protecting services for children with special needs. [emphasis mine]
I don't think anyone would disagree with that. So why does the NJBOE want to let districts bring in contractors who have no connection to their communities or their schools? And while we're thinking about it: will districts be allowed to contract with private, for-profit contractors?Experience has taught us that, when CST members are not members of the school community or the community wherein the school lies, there is a lack of awareness of the school's and community's culture and expectations that play a direct role in decision making. We have also learned that relationships developed between CST members and other school staff members have a direct impact on the services provided to special needs students. CST members are the bridge uniting families and school personnel. CST members also provide vital services to our students, e.g., counseling, academic support, family services, etc. These relationships are greatly enhanced when CST members are full members of the educational community. [emphasis mine]
This regulation change is setting up New Jersey's schools for the outsourcing of special education case management. The NJBOE wants to give districts the ability to contract for special education personnel outside of school districts as a cost-cutting measure.
The people who are responsible for providing services to our special needs children should be part of the education community where they serve. It's astonishing that I have to point this out...
But we live in astonishing - and disturbing - times. This is just the latest example of the Haliburtonization of our schools: more and more opportunities for contractors, while educators see their profession diminished.
Coming soon to your school...