Last month, we created a survey for parents about the effects of budget and sequestration on special education services across the country. So far, more than 950 of you have responded. The survey closes in November, but because of the ongoing federal budget battle, we wanted to share some of the preliminary results today.
Half of Parents See Cuts to Services
When asked if your child’s special education services have been changed due to budget cuts in your public school since the beginning of the last school year (2012-13), more than half (52.4 percent) of you said yes. The impact of cuts was distributed across a number of different areas. For example, 32.4 percent of you said that services had been decreased and 29.6 percent said that class sizes had been increased. Below is a chart showing the percentage of parents surveyed who reported these changes.
Although not every parent reported seeing special education changes, nearly everyone who responded (94.1 percent) said they were worried about the impact of cuts on their child’s education. At the same time, less than a quarter (22.6 percent) had received any information from their local school about cuts.
Responses From Around the CountryWe received the most responses from Texas and from California. We also received survey responses from parents in more distant states, such as Alaska and Hawaii. Many teachers and educators also responded to the survey. Here are a few of the comments that stood out:
My biggest concern is for the children in the Head Start programs around the State of Alaska and the program cuts that have been made. Without early learning programs rural Alaska children will fall farther and farther behind…. budgets have been flat lined for the past 3 years, the cost of doing business has risen 30% and now we have to deal with sequestration restraints that further limit program services. What an injustice to our future.
We have been fortunate so far that our son’s services have not been cut or changed. I don’t know how much longer that will be true. I hear talk of all the cuts to special education in our district, but no one wants to say exactly what is being cut or how it will impact the students.
Assistive Technology is not available. There used to be an Assistive Technology Specialist in the School District, but there is no longer one. The Inclusion Specialist had hours reduced.
—Near Santa Cruz, California
[T]he K-5 grade population has grown from 530 students to 760 students in three years. And still there is only one special educator and three reading specialists. Too little for too large a group and the reason they cannot expand is budget shortfalls.
I understand the need to make cuts in the budget, but not when the cuts affect the most vulnerable of our children.
—Ann Arbor, Michigan
I am an Inclusion teacher at my son’s high school. Our special ed department lost a certified position and two paraprofessional positions. Students receive services, but we have cut our presence in all but core classes.
Class size has gotten way too big. There is so much pressure about children reading on grade level, yet class sizes just keep getting bigger and bigger. Pressure and workload for teachers has gotten overwhelming. Please keep funding for education a major priority.
—Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Our schools can not afford audio text books, one on one instruction.
My son … has been able to get the wonderful help and personalized services that he needs for his various disabilities. However this year his class size went from 8 to 15 students. This almost doubled the size of his class! Stop cutting finding from those who need it the most. Sincerely, A very concerned mother.
—Near Provo, Utah
These are just a handful of responses that we have received through the budget survey.
Andrew M.I. Lee is an editor for the National Center for Learning Disabilities.