Special Education Presentation at the Board Meeting Tonight

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Just shy of two months ago, I posted my findings concerning the reductions in the Huntsville City Schools budget for Special Education. Using numbers provided to me by Mr. Frank Spinelli, CSFO, and Mr. Rob Terry, I found that the Special Education budget for FY2011 was $27,588,027.27. This budget for FY2012 has been reduced to $20,414,163.53, or a difference of $7,173,863.74.

For nearly the past three months I have been asking for a justification of this reduction in funding for our neediest kids. Perhaps tonight Mr. Aaron King will finally provide that justification.

When I asked Dr. Robinson about this reduction at the September 29th board meeting, she offered a couple of justifications:

  • The seven million dollar reduction represents the “difference between budgeted numbers and actual expenses.” As I pointed out on October 2nd, even if she is correct, the difference between what was actually spent and a planned budget is still $7 million dollars, which is 61 percent of the total cuts made system wide.
  • She also made her claim that she knows that the system is meeting IEPs because the system is not being sued.

Hopefully, Mr. King will come up with something a little better than that tonight. (By the way, why is it that Mr. King is making this presentation? Why isn’t this presentation being made by Mr. Spinelli as CSFO, or Dr. Cooper as Deputy Superintendent for Instruction since she is directly responsible for Special Education, or perhaps even Dr. Wardynski himself? I suspect this is because they want to communicate to the board that there’s little to no need to ask questions about his presentation.

I also doubt that he will be willing to offer any justification for why Special Education is being asked to carry more of the cuts than any other group in the system despite state code section 16-39-3 requiring that the cuts made to special education be prorated “on a per capita basis between exceptional and nonexceptional children.” Perhaps Mr. Brooks will be willing to offer an interpretation of this code that justifies placing 61 percent of the cuts on special education.

Despite Dr. Robinson’s claims to the contrary, the school system is not meeting the requirements of the IEPs. At Challenger Elementary alone, the entire school went for two months without a single Occupational Therapy session when the previous OT resigned after about a month of school. The OT that was hired to replace the first one resigned after just a single day. Additionally, the entire school has been without a Speech Therapist for the past two weeks when our superb ST resigned because she was being overworked and underpaid.

When I asked where the extra $1.9 million dollars was coming from to pay for the recruitment, selection and professional development of the TFA’ers, honestly, I think I already know. It came out of the $7 million that was cut from the Special Education budget from FY2011 to FY2012.

It will be interesting to see how Mr. King justifies this.

"Children see magic because they look for it." --Christopher Moore, Lamb: The Gospel according to Biff, Jesus' childhood pal.


  1. It is disheartening to hear that the ST has quit, but given the circumstances, who can blame her. This while those at Merts are trying their best to keep moving kids to Challenger and AAA, away from their home schools, just piling on more when they don’t have the ability to manage and teach the children they already have. This consolidation “plan” that didn’t exist, that now does, thanks to the admission of Dr. Robinson and the explanation for it by Dr. Wardynski at one of the board meetings back in September, is a clear violation of the US Dept of Education requirements for a child to be placed in his/her home school. Placement of a child in any classroom must be on an individual basis and must be a team decision, not one from the administration for factors such as money or convenience. Taken from the US Dept of Education own website:

    “However, school districts may not make placements based solely on factors such as the following: category of disability; severity of disability; configuration of delivery system; availability of educational or related services; availability of space; or administrative convenience.”

    I for one and tired of having all of these cuts being made on the backs of Special Education. People need to remember that a child is just one fall or traffic accident away from a traumatic brain injury that could possibly land that child into Special Education. If you don’t fight for the services now, they won’t exist then.

  2. Do you think the system is vulnerable to a suit based on state code section 16-39-3?
    The law is, after all, the law.

    1. Yes. It is also vulnerable to a suit for the consolidation of the students based solely on disability into certain schools, as I noted above. There are several federal class actions on this subject alone. There is a reason that Amy Sledge didn’t want to put the consolidation “plan” in writing at the parents meeting back in April. She told us then she wouldn’t put it in writing becuase she didn’t want us turning it into Montgomery and therefore getting her into trouble.

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