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THE REAL COSTS OF THE PROPOSED FISCAL ACCOUNTABILITY RULES.

ELC TALKS REAL SAVINGS

The Education Law Center (ELC) strongly opposes the special education provisions of the proposed fiscal accountability regulations being promoted by the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) to replace the previous regulations set to expire on June 30. 

The proposed rules, while making some concessions to disability advocates’ concerns, still give the NJDOE Executive County Superintendent (ECS) broad powers in the special education IEP process. Although purporting to, “assure the financial accountability of boards of education,” the rules instead will lead to increased costs to local school districts and taxpayers.  But the most troubling expense of the new proposals will be borne by the students themselves.  According to Ruth Lowenkron, a Senior Attorney at ELC, the proposed rules will result in inappropriate placements and a denial of the mandated “free and appropriate public education.”  

“Based on 2007 NJDOE data, over 23,000 students with disabilities in New Jersey were placed in out-of-district programs and hence will be subject to ECS review.  Such large numbers are nothing short of unmanageable for a handful of county superintendents,” said Lowenkron, who provided oral and written testimony before the Joint Committee on the Public Schools, written and oral testimony before the Assembly Education Committee and written testimony at a hearing held by NJDOE.

In her testimony, Lowenkron warned that the proposed rules will result in violations of special education timeframes and increased legal fees and the costly hiring of additional expert staff will follow.  ELC instead proposes some of the following truly cost-saving measures:

  1. The independent collection of special education cost data to conclusively ascertain which policies will limit special education costs.
  2. DOE coordination and regionalization of pupil transportation, one of the most expensive components of special education.
  3. DOE facilitation of effective general education pre-referral intervention to reduce the need for special education services.
  4. Increased opportunities for districts to share expensive equipment and assistive technology.
  5. DOE development of a database to track available services thus reducing the number of inappropriate placements for children with disabilities.
  6. DOE approval of requests for suitable in-district, non-segregated school facility construction to reduce the cost of placing students in out-of-district programs due to lack of suitable in-district facilities.

Special education advocates are urged to join ELC and the New Jersey Coalition for Special Education Funding Reform at one of several hearings throughout June and July across the state, and/or to submit written comments by August 14th.  Click here Action Alert and Summary for background information you may use in your written comments and testimony.

Together, we can ensure that students with disabilities receive an appropriate education.

For Additional Information Contact:
Ruth Lowenkron, Esq.
Senior Attorney
rlowenkron@edlawcenter.org
(973) 624-1815 Ext. 21