Increased class sizes, decreased services and placement changes are among the effects parents say budget cuts are having on students in special education.
In a new survey of more than 1,000 parents of kids with disabilities across the country, more than half said they have seen differences in their child’s special education services because of budget cuts in the last year.
Among those who cited changes, about 30 percent said their son or daughter’s services decreased, nearly a third reported expanded class sizes and 27 percent said the number of service providers at their child’s school declined.
Meanwhile, 13 percent of parents blamed budget cuts for a change in their child’s school placement, according to the survey conducted by the National Center for Learning Disabilities.
“The level of services is changing not based on the nature of the services the child needs but based on budget availability,” said Lindsay Jones, the organization’s director of public policy and advocacy. “That is directly contrary to the law.”
Jones said that modifications are not necessarily being made to students’ individualized education programs, or IEPs, but the impact is felt when a child’s class size doubles or a school loses its assistive technology or inclusion specialists.
In one case, a parent reported in the survey that a Bethesda, Md. elementary school increased from 530 students to 760, but still has just one special educator.
“Too little for too large a group and the reason they cannot expand is budget shortfalls,” the parent wrote.
The survey released this month is believed to be among the first to gauge the perspective of parents on the impact of special education budget cuts. Previous polls have largely looked at the opinions of school administrators and other professionals in the field.
This year alone, federal special education funding was chopped $579 million under sequestration, a process of across-the-board spending cuts triggered when Congress failed to reach a budget deal.
Further cuts are expected next year unless lawmakers act to avert them.