Embracing the Ambiguity in Special Education Law

by Josette Barsano

Children living in poverty are more likely to be exposed to risk factors that hinder functional development and thus have a heightened need for special education services.[1] As a special education teacher in a low-income school district, one of the greatest challenges I faced was navigating the gray areas that govern the right of every student to receive, as the law stipulates, the “appropriate” educational and related services that are essential for them to progress academically.[2]  In my experience, the ambiguity surrounding what “appropriate” really means and how it should apply to each unique student was the source of heated debate. After sharing my concern of this opaqueness in the law with my Assistant Principal, she surprisingly advised that instead of bemoaning the lack of concrete definitions and processes, I should embrace the ambiguity. In her wisdom, she explained that there is much opportunity to effectuate meaningful change in the veil of vagueness. In contrast, stringent guidelines can lead to cookie-cutter outcomes that may not always serve the best interests of individual students with special needs. Time and again this approach led me to find consensus in situations where I thought it might not be possible, and it was instrumental in my success in collaborating with parents, teachers and administrators.

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It’s Time to Go Back to the Drawing Board for Public School Funding

by David Brunfeld

When Mark Twain was growing up, the residents living around the Mississippi River created a proposition to discontinue funding for public schools because of how expensive public schools were.[1] An old farmer asserted, in opposition, that “[i]f they stopped building the schools they would not save anything, because every time a school was closed a jail had to be built.”[2]

There is a fair amount of veracity in the old farmer’s words; it should come as no surprise that when education quality suffers, higher incarceration rates follow thereafter.[3] Roughly two thirds of all inmates across the country did not graduate high school.[4] These staggering numbers can largely be attributed to the difficulty in acquiring a job without a high school diploma, and without a job or any source of income, unemployment and incarceration cement a relationship.[5] To prevent this, we must continue to fund our public schools to ensure that youths of all backgrounds receive the best education we can afford to give them. Unfortunately, because of the system by which public schools are funded, this is not the case.[6] In reality, those living in lower income areas suffer with respect to their public schools’ funding.[7]

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Public Education: A Social Good and A Stepping Stone

by Gabrielle Rejouis

In light of the recent confirmation of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, experts and proponents for public education raise concerns about the future of state-funded education in America.[1] While I attended private school from preschool through 12th grade, my experiences as a first-generation American has influenced my understanding of the importance and need for free public education. Free public education was not an option when my parents grew up in Haiti. They both attended private school. My paternal grandfather and maternal grandmother immigrated to America to work and would send money back to Haiti to pay for the cost of my parents’ tuition and uniforms. Both sets of my grandparents valued education. When my parents immigrated to the United States and joined their parents in New Jersey as teenagers, they completed their high school education at public school before earning their bachelors and master degrees. Public education provided a bridge for my parents to navigate the new culture and new surroundings. It also allowed my parents to establish a strong foundation in America and lift their family out of poverty.

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Would a Federal Voucher Program Help or Harm Disadvantaged Students?

by Melissa Kahn

Image Available Here

President Trump’s unconventional selection and the Senate’s subsequent controversial confirmation of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education has been the subject of considerable debate, and much uncertainty remains as to how much damage she could do to the nation’s public education system. However, we do know that she is an enthusiastic proponent of school vouchers and charter schools. We also know that President Trump has proposed a federally funded voucher program which would redirect $20 billion from existing federal spending toward a block grant program for states to administer school vouchers.[1] Under these programs, parents of students living below the federal poverty level would be able to use a voucher to send their kids to a private or religiously-affiliated school of their choice. Clearly, voucher programs are targeted at economically disadvantaged students, and public opinion surveys show that minority and low-income parents tend to favor school vouchers more than the general public.[2] The question remains, however, whether such programs would help or harm the very constituency which it is designed to protect.

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Invest in Job Seekers not Obsolete Jobs

Four-year colleges and universities are not the only path to prosperity; community colleges and technical schools offer cost-effective pipelines to the workforce, writes Staff Writer Richard P. Hand. For more on the role community colleges can play in promoting social mobility, check out Mary Deweese’s Failed: The Myths And Realities Of Community Colleges, and How to Fulfill the American Dream Through Community College Reform. Available on WestLaw and Lexis.

by Richard P. Hand

Photo available here.

Throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, then-candidate Donald Trump often spoke about the nation’s loss of unskilled manufacturing jobs.[1] For many of his followers, “Make America Great Again” was the rallying cry for bringing back American manufacturing jobs.

One can see the logical appeal to his simple message. Factories that hired employees for unskilled manufacturing jobs were in America. Factories that hired employees for unskilled manufacturing jobs are now in other countries. Therefore, if we bring back said factories to America, then there will be more unskilled manufacturing jobs.

The harsh reality, however, is that the factories that once hired a multitude of unskilled workers now hire a few unskilled workers and use a multitude of automated machines.[2] While bringing back unskilled manufacturing jobs may sound appealing, at best it could provide a short-term fix for a few unemployed Americans,[3] and at worst it could create trade wars that drive up prices on everyday goods.[4]

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The Community Eligibility Provision: A Fresh Solution to Hunger in Poverty-Stricken Schools

by Jacob Woodward

The Community Eligibility Provision, or CEP, was established in 2010 under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.[1]  CEP is a new program designed to reduce the number of hungry students in high-poverty schools. Starting in the 2011-2012 school year, the CEP began to be phased into certain schools.[2]  2014-2015 was the first school year of national availability for the initiative and garnered the participation of over 14,000 high-poverty schools.[3]  That represents about half of the schools that are eligible to participate in the CEP, and one out of ten schools in the nation.[4]  Over 2,200 school districts – one in seven – have adopted the provision, resulting in more than six million children having access to two healthy meals a day.[5]

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Continued Segregation in an Unlikely Place

by Holly Wonneberger, Staff Editor, GJPLP

When the general public thinks of the state of Connecticut, they likely think of fall foliage, large colonial brick houses, and Ivy League campuses.

These images do not reflect a whole reality.

Most people know that Brown v. Board of Education determined that separate but equal is not equal, and schools across the country were required to integrate.[1] A lesser-known state-level case, Sheff v. ONeill was decided over four decades after Brown, and sought to demand the same changes. Sheff ordered Hartford-area schools to integrate because the existence of extreme racial and ethnic isolation in the public school system deprives school children of substantially equal educational opportunity; and required the state to take further remedial action.[2] The Connecticut Supreme Court concluded the school districting scheme, as codified in districting and attendance statutes, was unconstitutional under the Connecticut Constitution.[3]

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