CT Judges’ anti-special education rant attracts federal government concern

Rather than properly rule that Connecticut’s historic under-funding of its public schools is unconstitutional and that Connecticut’s state government is failing to ensure  that every child is receiving their constitutionally guaranteed access to a quality education, a former state legislator and now Superior Court Judge handed Governor Dannel Malloy a victory – of sorts- in the CCJEF v. Rell school funding lawsuit by ruling that although Connecticut’s school funding formula was irrational and illegal, the amount of funding that the state provides Connecticut’s schools was “adequate.”

In his controversial ruling, Judge Thomas Moukawsher fixated on the need to teach children literacy and math, dismissing the importance of a comprehensive education or the availability of services such as guidance counselors and the broader array of programs that Connecticut’s public school students need and deserve.

In addition, in what may have been the most disturbing aspect of this decision, the judge blasted Connecticut’s special education programs and suggested that a number of children simply didn’t deserve or need to have access to special education programs because, in his view, it was a waste to try and teach them.

Now, the federal government is responding to Judge Moukawsher’s inappropriate and heartless attack on children who require special education services.

As the CT Mirror reports in, Feds have concerns with judge’s special education ruling,

The U.S. Department of Education wrote the state’s education commissioner this week to share concerns about a state judge’s order telling Connecticut lawmakers to reassess what level of services students with significant disabilities are entitled to.

[…]

Moukawsher found fault with large sums going toward “those in special education who cannot receive any form of elementary or secondary education… School officials never consider the possibility that the education appropriate for some students may be extremely limited because they are too profoundly disabled to get any benefit from an elementary or secondary education.”

The U.S. Department of Education took issue with his ruling, saying it was concerned with those portions that “suggest that a school district need not provide programming or services to all [special education]-eligible children in all areas of need.” Ruth E. Ryder, the acting director of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs pointed to various federal court rulings requiring school districts to provide services for all the needs of disabled students, including academic, physical, emotional or social  needs, so that they have an opportunity to learn.

“Contrary to the lower court’s view, Connecticut and its school districts may not choose to provide special education and related services only for those students whom local educators believe may ostensibly benefit more from a traditional, elementary or secondary academic program,” Ryder wrote. “Rather, they have an obligation to provide special education and related services to all eligible children with disabilities, including children with more severe or significant disabilities.”

Federal law requires school districts to provide an “appropriate education” to disabled students – but what exactly that means is unclear. Federal courts are divided on the issue.  The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments in January over what kind of services must be provided to a Colorado student with autism.

As the CCJEF v. Rell goes, on appeal, to the Connecticut Supreme Court, it is good to know that the federal government, at least for now, is standing up for Connecticut students and their parents.

To read and comment on the full CT Mirror story about the federal government’s letter on special education go to:  http://ctmirror.org/2016/12/15/feds-have-concerns-with-judges-special-education-ruling/

 

  • Ciedie Aech

    To push program-expensive Integrated Needs kids out of their own classrooms, there has been an effort in our district to “mainstream” many students. Sure, that’s a possible solution, but without additional, regular and specific support, teachers cannot integrate a large number of kids who cannot function without help…and soon NONE of the kids in the classroom are getting much education. Maybe this is a hidden goal of those who want to quit paying for anything but future robotic thinkers?

    • jonpelto

      Excellent point!

      • R.L.

        This exactly what has happened in Hartford. I have a large percentage of SPED students in my classroom, always. Many of these students are in way over their head and, frankly, shouldn’t be in the class. They should be learning the math of how to balance a checkbook or they should be learning how to interact in an acceptable manner with others. Some people will never “master” algebra II. In Hartford we have to teach to the level of the child, not the expectations of the class. That is the directive. How can a kid who learns how to add when enrolled in a class that is called an algebra class be given credit for the algebra class when all the kid learned to do was add? That is the absolute norm in Hartford. This is why our graduates come out so deficient. When you teach a full class with generally 50% (it would be more if the district wasn’t afraid of over-identifying) of the class being either ELL, SPED, or both with little to no “push in”, the other students are absolutely being denied their right to a free and public education. At least to the level of what would be considered a “quality” education. That and the fact that our 9th graders come in averaging about a 3rd or 4th grade level in both math and reading on their MAP tests. The curriculum becomes irrelevant. Throw in those who are behaviorally dysfunctional and are in need of serious psychological support, and you have a zoo.

        Resources should be allocated to help those at a disadvantage to be able to learn to a point where they can achieve some sort of personal success, but it should not be done in the mainstream classroom and not at the expense of other students’ opportunities. Those who are on, or could be on, a more academic track should not be denied simply because politicians want to pretend everyone has the same capacity for learning. Full inclusion is a disaster! Why do you think charters and magnets sound good to people? People look to charters and magnets because they discriminate against those who have IEPs or don’t speak English. It’s systemic tracking.

        Fixing education should not be difficult. Everyone should have the opportunity. However, those who desire the opportunity should not be sacrificed to those who refuse the opportunity and are put into the same classrooms. Those who need services should be provided those services, but not at the expense of those who don’t require services. Anyone should be able to take any class, just pass the prerequisite. I believe this is more of the way it was before the dark days of Adamowski, the days when we had general, basic, academic, and honors classes. Back then we also had real comprehensive high schools, just like the suburbs. Comprehensive high schools offer much more choice than a smattering of small academies and magnets offering classes based on a theme. All of those new school buildings must have been very expensive. I bet we lost a lot of our services to them. The policy-makers messed our district up badly. They messed it up and we, the teachers, are supposed to wave our magic differentiation wands and make it all better.