Friday, October 31, 2014
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Opinion: Time to Revamp NJ's Costly, Segregated School System for Special-Needs Kids

Everyone's beating up on New Jersey's special education system.

Opinion: Time to Revamp NJ's Costly, Segregated School System for Special-Needs Kids

Everyone’s beating up on New Jersey’s special education system.

Earlier this year a federal district court judge approved an agreement that requires the state to take “extraordinary measures” to address “one of the most segregated special-education settings in the country.”

Federal and state law mandates that students with disabilities be educated in the “least restrictive environment,” ideally within general education classes with appropriate modifications and support, but half of New Jersey’s special-needs children are isolated from their typical peers. One in 10 special-needs students is educated in an out-of-district school, far more than any other state in the country.

Confirming NJ’s segregated system for educating children with disabilities, last month the New Jersey School Boards Association (NJSBA) issued a new report entitled “Special Education: A Service, Not a Place.” This analysis offers 20 recommendations that intend to transform a culture that regards special education as a “separate place” to one in which special education is simply a continuum of therapies and supports provided to children with disabilities.

Over at the Statehouse, Gov. Chris Christie just christened yet another task force to address special education woes. Meanwhile, in a 2012 report, the state Department of Education worried that “the demands of an effective review and reconciliation of rates for every [private school for students with disabilities] strains the capacity of the Department’s finance staff.”

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