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Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Misleading Budget Point of the Day II

This is a continuation of the series I began here, outlining misleading or incomplete points that have been included in School District #15's annual budget mailing:
  • (p. 5) It is noted that "The State Education Department mandates that District 15 provide equal levels of service...to students residing within district boundaries". The implication is, of course, that the district is abiding by this mandate, and in fact does provide equal levels of service to all students residing in district boundaries. The problem with that fact is that in reality, the district's public school students qualify for one of those state mandates services, Special Education, at a rate that is more than double that of private school students. And even that number is misleading in that district private school children further outnumber district public school children by 50%. So by extension, in reality children attending district public schools receive special ed at a rate of closer to three times that of district private schools. That number is hard to understand, however, without some background. How many kids from each community were evaluated for services and denied? Of late, I have heard many anecdotes of increasingly aggressive denial of services to non-public school students, and though those are worrisome, I am reserving judgement on the veracity of those rumors until I see some hard evidence. That said, with the numbers showing the disparity that they do, I do feel it is the responsibility of the district to show some sort of evidence that private school students are receiving approval for their special education needs at an "equal level of service" to that of public school students, as mandated by law.
More to come.

54 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You have posted about this before, and I recall reading very coherent, logical possible explanations for the discrepency you discuss. Why not make an attempt to be objective and at least mention some of explanations that have been brought up here in the past?

10:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From my own experience, I can tell you that yeshivos are very aggressive in pushing kids to be tested for special services even where the need is slight. One of the lines always used on my wife and I (who are opposed to our kids being pulled out of class for services which aren't really needed) is that we should take advantage because it doesn't cost anything. Most tests for special services are very subjective - when an OT looks at a child, there is a fine line between a problem a child will grow out of and something that needs remedial services. You need to consider (1) are yeshivos overly aggressive in pursuing services knowing that someone else foots the bill, resulting in higher rates of denial for those services; (2) are the public school students coming from backgrounds (e.g. a new immigrant where english is not the first language) where more special services are more needed.

10:58 AM  
Blogger orthomom said...

Anonymous said...

You have posted about this before, and I recall reading very coherent, logical possible explanations for the discrepency you discuss. Why not make an attempt to be objective and at least mention some of explanations that have been brought up here in the past?


Huh? Where have I posted about this before?? I certainly don't have any recollection of posting on this specific topic, and I can't find it in my archives. And as always (and as I stated clearly in my post), I await more hard facts and explanations as to the disparity. Please, I would be extremely interested to hear any "coherent, logical possible explanations". That is what these posts are all about. I don't like the fact that this budget mailing has been sent out with incomplete or misleading information. I, as a voter, am entitled to get every bit of information I feel I need in order to make my decision about how to vote. I can't imagine that there is something wrong with that.

11:01 AM  
Blogger orthomom said...

You need to consider (1) are yeshivos overly aggressive in pursuing services knowing that someone else foots the bill, resulting in higher rates of denial for those services; (2) are the public school students coming from backgrounds (e.g. a new immigrant where english is not the first language) where more special services are more needed.



I will consider any and all possibilities - but as I said, I do feel it is the responsibility of the district to give more information that explains the disparity. I have a friend who is a Special ed provider in a local Yeshiva. She said that NY City approves many more children for services than Lawrence does. According to her. there are children being denied for services by Sd #15 that have similar learning issues to children who receive much-needed services every day from the City. I want to know if that's true.

11:05 AM  
Anonymous lawrence provider said...

"there are children being denied for services by Sd #15 that have similar learning issues to children who receive much-needed services every day from the City."

That's true. I am a speech therapist for the district. The parameters for receiving services are very clear when the ctudents are younger (i.e receiving services under Early Intervention or Continued Pre School Education programs) but the parameters for older (School aged) children are more murky. I see many children turned down for speech disorders that routinely get kids pulled out of class in the public schools. Don't forget that it is easier to treat children when the therapists are on-site, as with public school students. But what you are talking about has for sure been my experiebce.

11:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Lawrence Public Schools:
Facts Vs. Hyperbole
By
John T. Fitzsimons, Ph.D.
Superintendent of Schools

In your recent column entitled “ School Election Heats Up” published on April 28th you liberally cite comments attributable to board candidates Uri Kaufman and Michael Hatten. I applaud their willingness to give of themselves to serve on the Lawrence Board of Education as I do to the other two candidates, Michael Brooks and Thomas Rizzo. However, from Kaufman’s and Hatten’s comments, it is apparent that they either misunderstood or misinterpreted the current fiscal conditions of the district. I find this very understandable given the complexities of public school finance and the unique circumstances the district faces in that we have been operating for the past three years with contingency budgets.

I am hopeful that the following explanations will provide your readership with clear and accurate information regarding the Lawrence Public School budget. An often-misunderstood area of the budget is what is termed the reserve accounts and fund balances. We need to do a better job of explaining how they are formed, why they are necessary, and how their use is highly restricted by state regulations.

To begin with, unlike the state and federal governments, or the private schools, a public school district cannot overspend its appropriations and operate with a deficit budget. Well managed districts, like Lawrence, tightly control expenditures and wherever legally possible, generate additional revenues in order to reduce local property taxes, the primary source of school funding.

For the past three years the Lawrence Board of Education and the administration have exercised tight fiscal oversight of all expenditures. This has enabled us to return millions of dollars to the taxpayers, as well as to replenish state required reserve funds that had been drawn down or completely exhausted by prior Boards.

These funds are the result of the administration’s ability to maximize all sources of revenue streams other than local taxes or state aid, such as the tuitions we receive from other districts whose students with disabilities are enrolled in our programs. In addition, we have taken full advantage of local, state, and federal grants and entitlements that are available to the district.

These funds do not constitute surpluses and can vary from year to year. The Board cannot indiscriminately use these funds. They are highly regulated funds with clear legal restrictions that the Board must closely follow. The Board did not go about “setting aside $5 million in a reserve account,” as stated by Mr. Kaufman, nor does his characterization of the current contingency budget as “bloated and oversized,” reflect a working knowledge of our financial operations.

The Board did not set up one reserve account in the amount of $5 million. However, they have replenished four existing reserves and established a fifth reserve for retirement contributions in compliance with new state regulations. The reserve accounts are all in keeping with general accepted accounting practices and are not part of the operating budget.

The district fund balances and reserve accounts are subject to an annual audit by the Board’s external auditing firm, Coughlin, Foundotos, Cullen and Danowski. Their June 30, 2005 audit revealed the following fund balance reserves:

General Fund (p.29)
Reserve for Worker’s Compensation $ 2,066,247
Reserve for Unemployment 262,949
Reserve for Employee Benefit Accrued Liability 2,454,562
Reserve for Retirement Contribution 1,200,000
5,983,758
Special Reserve Fund School Lunch Fund
Reserve for inventory 10,487
$ 5,994,245

In addition, an estimated sum of $1,160,000 has been designated as the amount to be appropriated to reduce taxes for the year ending June 30, 2006 (p.29). These fund balances demonstrate sound fiscal management of the taxpayers’ money and are voted on in public session by the Board in August. The entire audit is available to the public.

Although the district has been confronted with a series of contingency budgets, the Board has worked hard to reduce costs over the past five years. As a result, they have closed one school and reduced the professional staff by 25% and the support staff by 5% while public school student enrollment has declined by only 8% over the same five-year period. We estimate that these reductions have lowered our salary and benefits costs by over $8 million and the closing of the Number One School has lowered our building operations cost in the first year alone by $800,000.

However, in the meantime, we have not been able to address the escalating capital needs of the system. Such needs have been documented in our recent Building Condition Survey, filed with the New York State Education Department. The report, completed by the engineering firm WGC, estimates that the district will need to spend $33.8 million over the next five years to address needed repairs and structural deficiencies of our school buildings. The Board, in recognition of our deteriorating building conditions, agreed to put aside a portion of the proceeds from the sale of the Number One School to address these capital expenditures. To that end, on the May 16 ballot, you will find Proposition No. 2 calling for the approval of a capital reserve fund.

Mr. Hatten’s statement that the voters have lost confidence in this board is understandable when measured by the three consecutive budget defeats. However, the loss of confidence is more likely the result of a limited knowledge of the school operations and misinformation regarding expenditures.

For example, in your article you state that the district is projected “to spend nearly $800,000 on legal fees, mostly on efforts to challenge applications for special-education services for developmentally disabled children in the district, who are associated with a particular segment of the community.”

What source provided you with such erroneous information? If you would have checked with our business and special education departments you would have learned that the projected figure for legal services associated with special education is about $200,000. These legal fees are not the result of confrontations with “a particular segment of the community” (your reference to Orthodox children) but rather the result of impartial hearings (an expensive legal process) brought about by parent challenges to the program being offered by the district to their children.

Further exacerbating the negative attitude of the public toward public schools is the issue of property taxes. The local school board does not assess property or set the tax rate. Class One property is assessed and the tax rate established by the County of Nassau. For example, the county has manipulated the calculations for assessing properties over the last three years and as a result, confused taxpayers have displaced their frustration at the polls by voting down more and more school budgets throughout Long Island.

What then are the tax implications for homeowners who enter the voting booth on May 16th? According to the Nassau County Assessor’s Office, an average home, which they calculate at .25% of the market value, would result in a school tax of $6,293.56 to support the proposed $93.1 million school budget. If the budget were to be defeated and the Board held to a $91.9 million contingency budget, the tax on the average home would be $6,272.37 and would result in a total reduction of a mere $21.19 reflecting a 3.3% increase over the previous year.

Two of the most significant increases in the budget are special education and transportation. The increase is attributable to an ever-growing population of both public and non-public school children with learning disabilities. The district provides quality programs for these children and is committed to their continuation. Although our public school enrollment is projected to decrease slightly by less than 1%, our non-public school enrollments are projected to increase by 4%, we are responsible for transporting all school age children to and from school, be they in public or non public schools and thus, we will be transporting over 7,000 children next year. The cost of diesel fuel has increased dramatically and is responsible for much of the increase in our transportation budget for next year.

I would encourage your readership to access our web page www.lawrence.org where they will find a line-by-line budget and an executive summary budget. If you need accurate information you can email me at jfitz@lawrence.k12.ny.us or Frank Ruggiero, Assistant Superintendent for Business and Operations at fruggiero@lawrence.k12.ny.us. Tikkun Olam.

11:18 AM  
Blogger orthomom said...

Thanks, but I fail to see how this answers my questions regarding Special Ed:

Two of the most significant increases in the budget are special education and transportation. The increase is attributable to an ever-growing population of both public and non-public school children with learning disabilities. The district provides quality programs for these children and is committed to their continuation.

We already know that the increase from Special Education of non-public school children will be half that of the costs for providing Special Ed for public school children.

11:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

>>>I have a friend who is a Special ed provider in a local Yeshiva. She said that NY City approves many more children for services than Lawrence does.<<<

The issue is whether other public school children in SD#15, not NYC, are getting services where private school students with identical conditions are being denied.

>>> I do feel it is the responsibility of the district to give more information that explains the disparity.<<<

Such as? Without releasing the confidential evals of individual students, without the expertise to see if the evals are truly comparable, what info could the district provide that would allay your fear of discrimination in providing services?

12:01 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...


Such as? Without releasing the confidential evals of individual students, without the expertise to see if the evals are truly comparable, what info could the district provide that would allay your fear of discrimination in providing services?


Well, let's see. The non-public school community is disillusioned with and has lost faith in the district and the school board. Members of said community are asking for some proof that an unanticipated large disparity between services provided for public school vs. private school students is perfectly explainable. And you are asking that we just trust that there is a perfectly reasonable explanation without hearing it? A disparity this significant entitles voters to an explanation.

12:11 PM  
Anonymous been in lawrence a long time said...

And with that. OM gets to the crux of the problems here. The public school crowd demonizes the private school crowd. The public schools refuse to answer any questions about their spending the private school voters ask. The public school community claims (deceptively) that the budget is going up only due to the non-public school expenses, when OM blogged a brilliant post showing us what a sweetheart contract the teachers are demanding (again).

And then, the public school community demonizes the private school community again when they reject the budget.

Are you guys complete idiots?

Do you really think THIS kind of behavior is going to get your budget approved?

Try again.

Treat the private school community like your partners in education instead of the source for your bloated budget and you guys might be surprised to find that they are.

It's all about respect.

The public schools need private school support to approve the budgets. Where is the olive branch being offered in order to get it?

You guys are going to keep playing hard line politics, and keep digging in, and the budget willl have a snowball's chance in hell of being passed.

12:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let's look at this clearly. Many students come from underprivileged families in the public school community, not so in the private school community. It is probably fair to extrapolate that many of the extra special cases are due to various issues that are inherent to being underprivileged.

Hiwever, I do think that commenters and our bloghost have a point that that should be explained. A disparity as large as ther is should be explained.

I should add that I do believe that some of teh disparity could certainly be due to overly aggressive denial of servises to the Orthodox community.

The two explanations are NOT mutually exclusive, after all.

12:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I certainly don't have any recollection of posting on this specific topic, and I can't find it in my archives."

Sorry, OM. You're right. I remembered reading an exchange about the subject, but it wasn't written by you. I found it in the 11/24/05 comments, and I'm pasting a small section of it below. I believe abc123's explanation needs to be considered. (to be fair, I am also pasting a countering response.)

abc123 said...
Edu4less, you are truly a propaganda machine. First of all, I cannot fathom how you can attempt to compare the academic performances of districts 14 and 15 considering, as you called them, "District 15's unique demographics ". As I have stated in the past (with links to prove it) students of district 15 are some of the most impoverished in the county and have among the highest percentages of second language learners. On top of that, there is a very large special ed. population. All of these students are counted in the test results. I'm all for reform and demands for better performance, but the comparison is unsound. Now, regarding transportation and special ed. services. The district absolutely does go above and beyond. Does this mean that every parent receives every service they desire? Of course not. A very common problem for school districts is when parent's feel that their child needs special ed. services, and the district disagrees. A plot to discriminate and cut costs? No. It simply means that the district feels that services are unwarranted. This scenario is played out in districts all over the country, and insinuating that anti-Semitism is a reason for district decisions is insulting. BTW, are you aware of the recent Supreme Court case regarding special ed. services, Weast v. Schaffer? The Court decided that the burden of proof in IEP disputes falls on the parents, and it is not the district's responsibility to prove that a student is undeserving. I'm sure you are also aware that some Orthodox parents have sued the district claiming that the district doesn't offer the services necessary to educate their special needs child and that the district should therefore pay their yeshiva education. Might this be true in some cases? Perhaps. But the district has special ed. programs for the severely mentally disabled (life skills classes), autistic and Aspergers children, the emotionally disturbed, and the run-of the mill learning disabled youngster. In addition, as you know, PIPS are sent into the yeshivas to provide speech and language and other special ed. services. One more thing regarding transportation. There was a situation earlier this year when a new yeshiva was opened but missed the April deadline to apply for transportation. What did the district do when September rolled around, tell the families, "To bad. You missed the deadline.”? No. They did the right thing. They understood that exceptions must be made sometimes and they granted transportation to these families. (did I just compliment the Board? I suppose I did.) Also keep in mind that people that claim that private school students are undeserving of services are, to put it plainly, idiots.

8:14 PM


abc123 said...
"I have inside knowledge of the inner workings of the Public schools...and I can tell you for a fact that the guidance staff/teachers have been told not to recommend students for special services...to give intervention services without classification."

Skip is right, especially considering the fact that the district was investigated by the Office of Civil Rights a few years ago about the high numbers of minorities in special ed. classes. That's part of the reason for the recent push nationwide for inclusion classes. It's considered least restrictive, and keeps kids out of self-contained special ed classes.

8:19 PM


Skip said...
Those inclusion classes cost more too...2 teachers in one class...which is why those arguments about 20 years ago are not fair...education is not the same as it once was.

8:48 PM


Education4Less said...
abc123 said: "Now, regarding transportation and special ed. services. The district absolutely does go above and beyond. Does this mean that every parent receives every service they desire? Of course not. A very common problem for school districts is when parent's feel that their child needs special ed. services, and the district disagrees. A plot to discriminate and cut costs? No. It simply means that the district feels that services are unwarranted. This scenario is played out in districts all over the country, and insinuating that anti-Semitism is a reason for district decisions is insulting."

At a recent meeting the following "Special Education Enrollment" figures were publicized for the 05-06 school year:

Non Public School Total Student Enrollment: 4,275

Public School Total Student Enrollment: 3,451

Number of Non Public School Students Approved for Special Education Services: 320

Number of Public School Students Approved for Special Education Services: 631

I'll crunch the numbers for you to clarify the point of all this. For every 100 public school students, the District approves 18 students for special ed. services. For every 100 non-public school students, the District approves only 7 students for special ed. services.
Of course, there are a myriad of explanations and excuses as to why there are so many more public school students approved for services and some of them may even be valid, but this disparity is far too pronounced to write off as just a conspiracy theory. I've heard firsthand from too many private school parents whose children have been rejected for services. And I've spoken with even more private school parents who were approved for services (after much haggling) and have since been forced to struggle with the District at every stage to receive and state-mandated services to maintain the level of services that they are entitled to.

Private school parents have always been and continue to be made to feel as outsiders and resented for any requests that they make of the District - despite state mandated entitlements. This disparity in special ed. approvals is only the tip of the iceberg, but it highlights an area where the District clearly has a lot of room for improvement, but chooses to make no strides.

12:47 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...

Oy. I have a headache. Can all the anonymouses pic handles? I don't care what they are. But please, next time you post, enter an alias into the "other" blank. Otherwise I can't figure out who thinks what.

12:49 PM  
Anonymous rational_anonymous said...

>>>Members of said community are asking for some proof that an unanticipated large disparity between services provided for public school vs. private school students is perfectly explainable. And you are asking that we just trust that there is a perfectly reasonable explanation without hearing it? A disparity this significant entitles voters to an explanation.<<<

I don’t think you answered the question, which was what form of proof are you looking for? IOW, if you were in their shoes and wanted to respond to this, on a broad scale, without discussing individual cases or evals, what evidence could be offered that would convince you?

12:50 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...

IOW, if you were in their shoes and wanted to respond to this, on a broad scale, without discussing individual cases or evals, what evidence could be offered that would convince you?

Aggregate numbers of requests vs. denials? It wouldn't be perfect, but it would be a start.

1:05 PM  
Anonymous usually anon said...

o.k. sorry, but could you respond to abc123's comments above? thanks.

1:05 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...

My response remains the same. The disparity is huge. The demographics may account for some of the disparity, but everyone here must be informed enough to know that disabilities cut across all demographic divides. I would like someone who has actually looked at the figures of requests vs. denials to tell me that there is no real disparity here.

1:13 PM  
Anonymous school #4 said...

i have a child in school #4 special ed. We were treated by the district with the utmost kavod. The problem is there are those in our community try to get services for their child that are not warranted. They know this and are always on the lookout for it from our community. If you need it they will give it. We told them we hope our child doesnt need services but we think he does and they agreed. ( Side note- There are currently 7 frum children in school #4 special ed because either Cahal is too expensive 25K or that cahal cant handle the specific problem. ) Last year when he was in nursery the town gave hime to day speech and 2 days ot My suggestion is if you need sevices ask for them and do it the right way. If you dont need it or if he doesnt qualify pay for it yourself and dont try to out smart the system.

1:17 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...

If you dont need it or if he doesnt qualify pay for it yourself and dont try to out smart the system.

Well, that is what we are trying to get to the bottom of here. When you say "if you don't qualify", the question is whether that child deserves to qualify or not. I am happy that your child received the services he/she needs. But I can't discount the stories I have been hearing from friends or acquaintances of their children being denied services that they feel their children need.

Also, keep in mind that this isn't necessarily about whether YOU feel that children with lesser disabilities are, in your mind, disabled enough to truly need services. It's about parity. If there are public school children with lesser disabilities receiving services, than non-public school students are 100% entitled to the same services.

1:26 PM  
Anonymous usually anon said...

"If there are public school children with lesser disabilities receiving services, than non-public school students are 100% entitled to the same services."

100% correct; I'm just not sure why the private school community assumes that it is the intent of the district to deny necessary services to their children, especially when doing so would be illegal and open up the possibility of a lawsuit.

1:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well said usually non!

Do we really think that the District is so biased towards the Private schools?

Or...are the Private schools wanting when they are not deserving? Resulting in 'we don't get what we are entitled to b/c we are the private schools'. PLease already!

Shame on you Orthomom for believing everything you hear. Didn't mommy teach you to never rush to judgement and experience for yourself.

2:44 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...

Uh, no. I don't necessarily believe everything I hear from either the people who say that there is an aggressive denial of services to private school students - or the people who say the huge disparity in approvals for special ed services is fair. That's why I wrote this post. Because I am entitled to know the real deal before I put in my vote.

2:57 PM  
Anonymous rational_anonymous said...

>>>Aggregate numbers of requests vs. denials? It wouldn't be perfect, but it would be a start.<<<

What exactly would that prove? Lets say that more private school requests are denied – does that prove needy students are being turned away after being properly referred, or that private schools are over-referring students for remedial services and they are being weeded out by a fair process? What if SD#15 turned around and said all these denials show the system is being abused in an attempt to get services where no need exists – could you prove otherwise? How could you do so? Its not comfortable having the shoe on the other foot, yet unless you are prepared to offer some evidence to defend countercharges like that, I'm not so sure the district should have to offer any evidence to answer your claims based on anecdotal hearsay of your friends

3:04 PM  
Blogger Krum as a bagel said...

I'm not so sure the district should have to offer any evidence to answer your claims based on anecdotal hearsay of your friends

It's not just anecdotal hearsay. Let's remember that there is a huge disparity in how special ed services is distributed -- is 3:1 according to the post, a ratio that no one has yet taken issue with. Sure there may be many, many reasons why the public school community might require more special ed services than the private school community, but three times the services? Come on.

3:17 PM  
Anonymous usually anon said...

This entire thread is fruitless. Several of us have tried to explain why, in our opinions, the reasons for large numbers of refusals of special ed. services in the private school community. Krum, why not three times the services? All of the possible reasons seem plausible that could lead to such a discrepancy. Very needy public school students and a large number of private school parents that push for services they feel their children deserve certainly seem like the reason. Like I said before, it is not in the district's best interests to deny services to private school students simply because they are private school students. Every district fears lawsuits. Denying special ed. students services opens up the district to such a lawsuit, which is always fool-hearty, especially in a cash strapped district such as Lawrence. Secondly, doing so would be illegal. I doubt public school personnel would put their rumps on the line just to screw some innocent children as a part of some vendetta. Lastly, I would like to think that the overwhelming majority of people that enter the field of education care deeply about children. To deny services to a deserving child is not only unconscionable, but it would require a conspiracy too large to possibly cover up.

3:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK. Now you're using math in a dumb manner. It doesn't matter how many students you have, the important factor is HOW MANY PARENTS/TEACHERS REQUESTED STUDENTS BE EVALUATED FOR SPECIAL ED SERVICES? Unless you have facts that show the district is actually rejecting non-public school children and impartial hearing officers are biased towards non-public school children, this is not the issue.

The issue is why are we allowing Special Ed costs to skyrocket? PPS has had a blank check to add staff and expenses and not once demonstrate how it's spending the money wisely and improving student performance.


------------------------------



Non Public School Total Student Enrollment: 4,275

Public School Total Student Enrollment: 3,451

Number of Non Public School Students Approved for Special Education Services: 320

Number of Public School Students Approved for Special Education Services: 631

3:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

pay attention to the numbers people! the rule of thumb is that 10% of students require some form of special ed. there should be parity here. it isn't even close.

now that you have paid attention to the numbers it is actually worse because the 320 non publics receiving special ed are double counted due to NYS's dual enrollment law. This means that there are only 3131 children in the public schools and not 3451.

Non public school rate of special ed: 7.5%
Public school rate of special ed: 20%

4:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is an obvious lawsuit here!

4:23 PM  
Anonymous mycroft said...

The following letter and answer can be found on the web. I pasted and copied it from LD Online-merely taking out the nmae of the questioner and the city where the person is from. It should be read before discrimination claim by those who are offered a "free and appropriate public education" and refuse it and complain.

Services for Dyslexic Children
NY USA

I live in Nassau county. My 7 year old son is highly dislexic, who also was diagnosed with ADD, and sensory and speech issues. He is icredibly bright and has a very high IQ (he is considered gifted). My son attends a parochial school and receives services from the school district. After consulting with numerous specialists on dislexia and my son's readinf specialist what was recommended by all was that my son should receive 1:1 resource room help with a highly qualified reading specialist who has experience working with dislexic children. I have hired such an individual. This is what is appropriate for my son- but the school district is not willing to provide this service for my son. Are they obligated to? How can I convince them that this is appropriate for him and that they should pay for such services? I have a CSE meeting on June 17, 2002. I would appreciate any help or insight into this matter.



In your letter, you indicate that your son "attends a parochial school and receives services from the school district." The IDEA '97 amendments specifically provide that a school district is not obligated to provide a free appropriate public education to children voluntarily enrolled in parochial schools. Instead, the public school is only obligated to provide a service plan, which may provide for little or no services at the discretion of the school district. Under the IDEA, public schools have a very limited obligation to children in parochial schools. Their only obligation is to provide a limited pool of money which is available for use in relation to services to children in private schools, with the decision as to how the money is spent solely under the control of the school district. There is no individual entitlement to a specific level of services for children who are voluntarily enrolled in private or parochial schools.

5:51 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...

mycroft - this letter all seems very pat, but it is not referring to all special ed services. There are specific special ed services that are ABSOLUTELY required by state law to be provided. This particular situation mentioned on the letter may not be covered, but the response re private schools is plain wrong. This letter probably refers to a diagnosis of a disability that does not fall under one of the specific disabilities mentioned by state law as qualifying a student as disabled, and thus automatically eligible for services. For those students falling under into the categories that qualify them as disabled, the state, as far as I have been told by SD#15 officials specifically, the state makes no distinction between students in private schools and those in public schools. There is a certain level of service mandated by law for all district residents who qualify as having a disability. Now, what we are discussing here is whether students that should be eligible are being denied services. That may be the case with this specific student - but not if he had fallen into one of the categories of "a student with a disability". trust me, mycroft. I am all too familiar with the Lawrence Special Ed system.

6:15 PM  
Anonymous anon #4 said...

What is he talking about? The state mandates special education for every student who is eligible, regardless of which school he attends. This letter is either erroneous or not referring to the same special education needs we are discussing here.

6:16 PM  
Anonymous usually anon said...

OM, any comments regarding my last post? (This is the closest thing I've seen to a beneficial dialogue I've seen here in a long time.)

7:12 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...

usually anon said...

OM, any comments regarding my last post? (This is the closest thing I've seen to a beneficial dialogue I've seen here in a long time.)


I hear what you are saying, but just because you posit that the district would be crazy to aggressively deny services to private school students doesn't make it a fact that they don't. The reasons given above, while explanatory of some of the disparity, does not do enough to explain it all. At most, the percentage of minorities in Lawrence is around 50%, according to numbers released today by the state. That still doesn't explain the huge disparity. Please, someone explain for real why the numbers are so different.

7:28 PM  
Blogger red said...

My guess is that English as a Second Language factors into this math somehow. My kids are little, and there are kids in their (public school) classes who don't speak English, only Spanish. A new student enrolled in March, speaking only Chinese. The public school cannot turn away such a child, but rather must teach her ESL and offer whatever else is needed to get her up to speed with her new classmates. I'd have thought this would be a low number of students, but experience in my kids' classes has proven me wrong.

8:41 PM  
Anonymous usually anon said...

"Please, someone explain for real why the numbers are so different."

Explain for real? I think the explanations already given are firmly based in reality and are extremely objective. What is it that you want to hear? The only other possible reason, other than the one's already mentioned, is anti-Semitism. While there are certainly anti-Semitic people working for the LPS, just as there are anti-Semitic people in all walks of life, I can't see how anti-Semitism could possibly become district policy. As I said before, acting in such a manner would require a conspiracy too large to possibly cover up.

8:48 PM  
Anonymous Lisa said...

I've been reading these comments and kind of wondering why parents don't challenge the district's denial of needed special education services. I had difficulty with the district and I worked with an attorney at Yad Letat (718 435 2088), who helped me (at a very reasonable price) get the related services. They also succesfully fought on behalf of my friend for full tuition reimbursement at CAHAL. So stop complaining, and do something. If enough people fight and win, the school district will have to provide the services voluntarily.

9:28 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...

My guess is that English as a Second Language factors into this math somehow

It does, but the numbers are readily available from teh state. The numbers of ESL students are not that large.

11:03 PM  
Anonymous mycroft said...

"this letter all seems very pat, but it is not referring to all special ed services."
Mom of 4 -I don't know the details of the exchange. You can find the exchange by doing a yahoo search.
You might be interestede in the following found in a google search of idea and non public schools first item:
Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 and Private Schools
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA) amended the IDEA provisions that address benefits and services to students with disabilities who are placed by their parents in private schools. Under the reauthorized IDEA, an LEA that serves areas in which private schools are located is required to conduct a thorough and complete child find process to determine the number of parentally placed private school students with disabilities attending those private schools; engage in timely and meaningful consultation with private school representatives and parent representatives of private school students with disabilities to determine the special education and related services that the LEA will provide; expend a proportionate share of federal funding on serving this population of students; provide on an equitable basis special education and related services to parentally placed private school students with disabilities attending private schools located in the areas served by the LEA; and maintain and provide to the SEA data on the number of parentally placed private school students evaluated, determined eligible, and served"
Note the requirement to "expend a proportionate share of federal funding on serving this population of students;" A proportionate share of federal funding in practice means nothing-the vast majority of funds are not federal in special ed.

11:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have heard that Rhona Leff is leaving???
Any ideas??
She is why the problem exists in Special ed in our district

2:41 PM  
Anonymous Mr Leff said...

She's leaving? Thank G-d. What a useless, overpaid and ignorant waste of our taxes

3:12 PM  
Anonymous FRUM PUBLIC SCHOOL PARENT said...

JUST REMEMBER WHEN DOING THE MATH THERE ARE MORE THAN A HANDFUL OF FRUM CHILDREN IN THE PUBLIC SCHOOL SPECIAL ED THESE CHILDREN GO TO PUBLIC SCHOOL AND NOT ANY OF THE YESHIVOT BECAUSE OF MANY FACTORS BUT DO GET SERVICES FROM THE DISTRICT EVENTHOUGH THEY WEAR KIPPOT

4:33 PM  
Blogger FiveTownEyes said...

As a parent of two children who were "classified" and needed special education services, I sat on the CSE (Committee for Special Education).

When these evaluations are looked into and passed around the table, there is no mention of what school the child goes to. That is one of the LAST things that is covered, and ONLY when there is a feeling from all that the child could benefit from programs. And in all my years of sitting on the CSE, a child was not held back from services ONLY because the child was going to private school. The child may have been held back, and only at the end, if the service couldn't be provided because of staffing issues.

As for special education, have you seen HOW MANY students at # 2 school, where it is about 70% Hispanic, what the percentage of special education students there are? It's very high. The highest in the district.

Let's keep the blogs objective. Oh, and YES, I'm a FRUM MUM. Never treated any differently, but maybe because I dress modestly but tastefully and my children use their American names. But that shouldn't enter into the picture here either. I decided to send my children to public school because they had so many services that would benefit my children and they wouldn't have to be pulled out of class. They needed OT, PT, adaptive PE, Resource Room, etc.

I still try to make as many CSE meetings as possible - so some of you are barking up the wrong tree. Sorry!

More more thing: teacher's salaries are very high. Taxes are high, our houses have almost tripled in value since we moved here 11 years ago and it isn't all due to the school district. Unfortunately, our tax system in Nassau County had to be overhauled and fairly assessed while house values went through the roof.

I moved here from Brooklyn 11 years ago when my house was sold for $1 million and my taxes were $1800.00 Now I understand the taxes on the house are now a whopping $3800.00 and the house is worth $2.3 million. Yup - it could only happen in Brooklyn!

6:08 PM  
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7:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"More more thing: teacher's salaries are very high. Taxes are high, our houses have almost tripled in value since we moved here 11 years ago and it isn't all due to the school district. Unfortunately, our tax system in Nassau County had to be overhauled and fairly assessed while house values went through the roof."

fivetowneyes:

Your testament about special ed. was almost believable until you went a tad overboard on the taxes issue. You're obviously just another defender of the LTA regime. Are you a teacher yourself? To say that teachers' salaries may not be too high and our taxes may not be too be high, pointing to the fact that property values have gone through the roof is ludicrous and sounds very much like the runaround that residents get from the Superintendent when he's trying to sell his budget increases. There is no legitimate defense in the world for the salaries and benefits paid to the teachers in this district and the almost double we spend educating each student as compared to the state average.
And as for your special ed. point, yes the district does run an excellent special ed. program in the lower schools, and services are generally not turned down for orthodox parents whose children belong in those programs. However, try applying for more appropriate services anywhere outside of those programs, and you'll be put through hell by the district and its well paid legal team. Then you'll be reminded by the administrators that your services wouldn't have been denied "had your community supported the budget."

2:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did Brooks and Rizzo really say they support salary increases for the teachers?

I didn't see any mention of this in the Nassau Herald

2:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The one thing that really gets me is you posted the salaries for teachers in Nassau and Suffolk a while back. The report did, I won't deny, show Lawrence teacher are paid better in the later tiers of service and education. But they aren't paid a significant amount more than the top 25%, nor the top 50% of school districts. It is usually not more than 7% more that other district and occasionally they are not the highest paid. In the top 25% it can be as low as 1-3% more than other schools.

If we think about that, its not the "super high" teacher salaries that are the cause of the high spending per student. I agree there must be a cause it but it isu nfair to shift the blame on the teacher salaries. If Lawrence had the same teachers with the same education and years as another Nassau school, the money spent per student would only be a 7% more.

Remember also, one reason we most likely have a higher % of teachers who are paid more because of a lot of the staff cuts we are made. Since there is a system of seniority, most of the lower paid, newer staff will be cut before the high paid staff. There is something causing the high spending per student, but it is not the teacher salaries that are the real cause. For some, the question should be what do you think these teachers should be getting paid?

12:00 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...

f we think about that, its not the "super high" teacher salaries that are the cause of the high spending per student. I agree there must be a cause it but it isu nfair to shift the blame on the teacher salaries. If Lawrence had the same teachers with the same education and years as another Nassau school, the money spent per student would only be a 7% more.

The beef with the high teachers salaries is that we are spending on teachers what the "elite" school districts are spending. Check out the other districts that are in the top tier for spending. you might notice some big differences between them and Lawrence. For example, 100% graduation rates from high school (compared with Lawrence's relatively poor showing). Or perhaps you'll notice that their high schools made state standards in their testing, as compared to Lawrence, which did not, and especially in the high school, performed very poorly in the state's education report card overall.

I am not necessarily against a district paying elite salaries for teachers - but we should be getting something approaching elite results. We are getting nothing of the sort.

9:51 AM  
Blogger orthomom said...

Anonymous said...

Did Brooks and Rizzo really say they support salary increases for the teachers?

I didn't see any mention of this in the Nassau Herald


Fort some strange reason, the Nassau Herald did not cover the Monday night candidate debates at all.

9:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To get back to the question at hand, as to why the percentage of non public school students who receive special ed services than public school students, here is one reason..there are many more.
Up until 1997, when the public school teachers first started going into the private school, very few parents referred their children to to the CSE. There were many disabled students in the private schools whose parents got them services privately and also who did not want anyone else to know that their child had a problem. As soon as the Lawrence District started giving services in the private schools, the numbers of parents who referred their child increased. It has been only a few years since the word has gotten out that the public school system provides good services. Parents are only now less afraid to admit that there might be something amiss with their child. In a few years, the attitude will change even more, and you will see that the percentage of parents who refer their children will increase.

9:55 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...

As soon as the Lawrence District started giving services in the private schools, the numbers of parents who referred their child increased. It has been only a few years since the word has gotten out that the public school system provides good services. Parents are only now less afraid to admit that there might be something amiss with their child. In a few years, the attitude will change even more, and you will see that the percentage of parents who refer their children will increase.

I'm sorry - I am willing to give some weight to some of the other possibile reasons for the disparity that were suggested above, but this one is a crock.

Parents are fully educated and informed as to the services available in the district. The Orthodox community living in SD#15 is an elightened, professional, educated bunch. I can guarantee that if they feel that their children have educational issues and are in need of services, the first place they turn to for evaluations and services is the district, and rightly so.
Your theory would have to be backed up with data that shows that the Private School community isn't applying for services. Show me that data. I can tell you it isn't there.

12:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As someone who has witnessed CSE meetings for both public and private school children, I can't believe what I am reading. Never, never, has one child been denied services due to the fact that a child attends a yeshiva. What we as parents need to look at are children as a whole. For any of you out there who have been living in this community for a very long time know Mrs. Leff has been instrumental in expanding the Special Ed Dept into our yeshivas.

Let's stick to the facts and make our community a whole not them and us.

9:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brooks and Rizzo never said they supported a pay increase!

4:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's funny - I was at the Candidates' Night and I heard Brooks say that teachers must receive a "cost of living increase". Rizzo added that the district's "teachers are not faceless" and that the district should try not to lay off teachers despite the shrinking student population.

9:01 PM  
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