There have been several cases where a person with special education advocacy experience has run for the school board. There was, of course, hue and cry on both sides of the issue any time it presented itself.
Some people were afraid that the advocate would favor special education students and bankrupt the district. It is not unusual for people to think that everything related to special education is exceedingly expensive when there are many things related to special education that have minimal cost over time. There are many accommodations and modifications that have no cost associated with them at all. Others felt that someone with special education advocacy experience could provide a positive step in the right direction for the entire school district.
When considering an issue like this - facts about special education and the number of children who need services and the types of services becomes critical. According to the Department of Education (DOE)15% of the school population is classified as special education. That number can vary depending on the specific school district and the demographic served. In the United States, approximately 15-20% of public-school students receive special education services.
Schools are required by law to provide FAPE, a Free Appropriate Public Education. Please note the operative word here is appropriate. While there are costs associated with providing special education services, it is important to note that there are also legal and ethical obligations to provide these services to students who need them to access the same educational opportunities as their peers.
So are there any advantage to having a special education advocate be a school board member? There are several strategies that could be used to decrease the cost of the school's special education budget:
Overall, by implementing these strategies, a school board member who is a special education advocate can work towards decreasing the cost of the school's special education budget while still providing high-quality services and supports for students with special needs.
A school board member who is a special education advocate can bring a unique perspective and understanding to the board's decision-making processes. Here are some reasons why a school board member should be a special education advocate:
Overall, having a school board member who is a special education advocate can help ensure that all students receive the education they deserve, regardless of their abilities or disabilities.
It is especially important for a school board member to be a special education advocate because they play a crucial role in shaping the policies and practices that affect students with disabilities in their district. Special education advocates on the school board can bring a unique perspective and understanding of the needs of students with disabilities and their families, and can advocate for policies and practices that ensure that these students receive the support and services they need to succeed in school.
Furthermore, students with disabilities often face significant barriers to accessing a quality education, including discrimination, lack of resources, and inadequate support services. A school board member who is a special education advocate can help ensure that the district is providing appropriate resources and support services for students with disabilities, and can work to address any issues or concerns that arise.
In addition, a school board member who is a special education advocate can help to promote inclusion and create a more welcoming and supportive school environment for all students. By championing the rights of students with disabilities, they can help to create a culture of acceptance and understanding that benefits all members of the community.
Overall, having a school board member who is a special education advocate can have a significant impact on the lives of students with disabilities in a community, and can help to ensure that they receive the education and support they need to reach their full potential.
The disadvantage of having a school board member who is NOT a special education advocate is that they may not have the knowledge or experience necessary to make informed decisions about special education policies and programs. This can result in inadequate support for students with disabilities, which can negatively impact their academic progress and overall well-being.
In terms of the school budget, a lack of understanding of special education needs can lead to inadequate funding for necessary resources and services, which can result in higher costs down the line. For example, if a school does not provide appropriate support to students with disabilities, they may require more intensive services or legal action, which can be costly.
In addition, a lack of advocacy for special education can negatively affect other students in the school system. If resources are not allocated properly to support students with disabilities, it can create an unequal learning environment for all students.
Finally, a lack of understanding of special education laws and policies can result in more due process cases. Due process cases occur when parents and schools disagree on the education plan for a student with disabilities. These cases can be costly and time-consuming and may have a negative impact on the student's education.
The bottom line is that it is important for school board members, no matter their background or experience, to be knowledgeable about special education and advocate for the needs of all students in the school system.
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Marie Lewis is an author, consultant, and national speaker on best practices in education advocacy. She is a parent of 3 children and a Disability Case Manager, Board Certified Education Advocate, and Behavior Specialist Consultant. She has assisted in the development of thousands of IEPs nationally and consults on developing appropriately individualized IEPs that are outcome-based vs legally sufficient. She brings a great depth of expertise, practical experience, and compassion to her work as well as expert insight, vision, and systemic thinking. She is passionate and funny and she always inspires and informs.
MJ Gore has an MEd in counseling and a degree in elementary education and natural sciences. She worked as a life-skills and learning support teacher She has been honored with the Presidential Volunteer Service Award. She is the Director and on the faculty at the National Special Education Advocacy Institute. Her passion is social justice, especially in the area of education. She is a Board Certified Education Advocate who teaches professional advocates, educators, and clinicians the best practices in education advocacy.
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