I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Friday, March 1, 2013

Why Is NJ BOE Targeting Special Ed Case Workers?

As I reported earlier, the NJ State Board of Education, acting on recommendations from the Education Transformation Task Force, is proposing a change in state code that would allow teachers and other staff to become case managers for students with special needs.

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:
  • 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
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?

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:
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 district
and shall be available to provide all needed services during the hours students are in attendance."
Wait a minute: the Task Force wants districts to be able to contract out special education services? Why? Well, here's their explanation:
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]
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:
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]
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?

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...


Unknown said...

Just like Milgram said, the essence of obedience consists in the fact that a person comes to view themselves as the instrument for carrying out another person's wishes, and they therefore no longer see themselves as responsible for their actions...By allowing "outsiders" to provide services, locals can look the other way.

Mrs. King's music students said...

Recently, I received one of those universal emails from HR stating that district teachers (hired after a certain date) who live outside of NJ MUST move to NJ and also, district teachers (hired after a certain date) who move out of NJ will be terminated! Is this a joke? For the life of me, I can't think why a 21st Century government would declare an edict that only applies to one profession. And why would HR attempt to comply?

Unknown said...

Outsourcing special ed services won't save money but is will disenfranchise parents and diminish the IEP team from designing an appropriate IEP and implementing a coherent program.
I can see it now:
A parent calls to set up an IEP meeting and hears a series of call center prompts - If you have a question about your child's IEP goals press 1. If you have a question about your child's related services press 2. If you have a question about eligibility press 3. if you have a question about your child's placement press 4. If you need a copy of your rights and responsibilities guaranteed by law press 5. If you think your child's IEP is does not appropriately meet his/her needs 6. If you need to speak to your child's case manager and you know his/her extension number enter it now. If not, please wait on the line for the next available representative.

Deb said...

We could argue that the NJDOE is targeting Special Ed but the broader truth is they are targeting Public Ed. Anyway to save money, decrease power at local level , encouraging outsourcing to private companies justified as increase flexibility and cost savings. Right. Therein lies the problem. While I am all for efficient use of money, when I consider the education of my children QUALITY comes before flexibility and cost savings. Cerf yet again proposing changes with no data to support that there is a problem in terms of quality of service that will be addressed by these changes, he is running public Ed like a business and running it into the ground.

Mount Laurel Education Association said...

This among many of the Task Force's recommendations are very dangerous. They have no real ties to the schools or communities affected by these laws and policy changes.

Mrs. King's Music Students: You're speaking about the NJFirst Act Residency requirements. It's applied to all public sector employees and it was passed under the cover of night. HR has no choice but to cooperate as it is law. And yes, employees who do not meet the residency requirements may face termination after they are given the opportunity to return to NJ to live.

Unknown said...

Yes greed. I always think of public education as a pie. The Governor and his hence men are Little jack Horner WHO ...
Sat in the corner,
Eating a public school pie;
He put in his thumb,
And pulled out a plum,
And said " now public schools will die!"

Unknown said...

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Anonymous said...

great just what already over stressed parents need... to deal with a another state system.
The I in IEP is for individualized! Does the state really think they can perform these very "individualized" services? I think not! Less Government!!


Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.