Last night, Bridgeport’s illegal Board of Education met for the last time. News coverage of the event can be found in the Connecticut Post (link here).
Although Board of Education members were given an update on the school’s system’s $225.2 million operating budget, there was no discussion about the single biggest cut in the school budget – that being services for students who need special education services.
As noted earlier here at Wait, What?, Bridgeport’s “official” education budget cut $1 million and 14 special education teachers from the school-based special education programs and cut more than $2.6 million dollars of the funds that are used to place those students with the greatest needs in the most appropriate settings, outside of the district. This is a 20 percent cut to outplacement program.
The magnitude of this cut for placing students in alternative educational settings means that Paul Vallas is assuming that approximately 20%, or one out of every five students, who have been placed in a specialized setting, will be moved back into Bridgeport school system.
Such a change would require that Bridgeport revise each student’s IEP (Individualized Education Program), a process that is both complex, lengthy and requires full participation by all of the individuals and entities that are responsible for determining each child’s educational and social needs.
There is absolutely no indication that Team Vallas as begun such a massive rewrite of student’s IEPs or even that such a charade could be pulled off, since federal and state laws about special education services specifically require students to be placed in the most appropriate settings.
Additional proof that this budget move is nothing more than a gimmick, is the fact that the new budget makes no attempt to provide the additional resources that would be needed to care for those children, if they were actually moved back into the Bridgeport schools.
Finally, the 20% reduction in spending for out of school placements completely overlooks the fact that many placements are controlled not by the City of Bridgeport, but by the state Department of Children and Families. These placements are often associated with foster care or other state related programs and few, if any, of these placements can be impacted by Bridgeport’s school administrators.
The truth is that Bridgeport’s illegal Board of Education voted for this budget.
And yesterday, the members of the illegal Board of Education wouldn’t even demand that Vallas explain the cuts, even though these cuts would have a devastating impact on some of our state’s most vulnerable children.
Since the members of the illegal Board of Education refused to do their jobs, Bridgeport residents should step in and demand that Vallas explain the following: (1) What factors did he use to decide that the cut in out of district placements should be 20%, (2) how many Bridgeport students will be impacted by this cut, (3) how many IEPs have been changed to remove the out-of-district placements that had previously been ordered, and (4) how many children have been moved back into the school system to date.
The parents and children who utilize special education services deserve better.
If someone can get Team Vallas to come clean on this outrageous cut, please post his answer here.