Budget cuts are forcing larger class sizes, bigger case loads and leaving schools with too few staff to meet the needs of students with disabilities, special educators say.
In a survey of over 1,000 special education teachers, administrators and other professionals across the country, more than 80 percent reported that budget cuts have impacted the delivery of services for kids with disabilities.
Just as many said that such cutbacks have left “too few personnel to meet the needs of students with disabilities” in their school districts.
The findings released Tuesday come from a poll conducted by the Council for Exceptional Children and the National Coalition of Personnel Shortages in Special Education and Related Services on the heels of significant funding declines in public education this year.
In addition to various state and local cutbacks, federal special education spending fell in 2013 by about $600 million as a result of sequestration, a process of across-the-board cuts triggered when Congress failed to reach a budget deal. Additional cuts are on tap for next year unless lawmakers act to prevent them.
Nearly all of the special educators polled said their school district had been affected.
“We do not have the support to meet each student’s individualized educational program,” a special education teacher in Utah said. “I do not have access to an aide or adequate technology but still try to reach each student’s individual goals and get them on grade level.”
Meanwhile, a speech-language pathologist in Pennsylvania said that having an increased caseload means more students in each session and “decreases their opportunity to achieve their goals.”
The survey findings echo those of a recent poll of parents of kids with disabilities who said that in many cases they’ve seen class sizes grow, services decline and placement changes as budget cuts set in.
“To be successful in school, students with disabilities rely on a cadre of professionals who have expertise to address their complex academic, behavioral and social-emotional needs,” said Christy Chambers, president of CEC. “Any further cuts would have a devastating impact on students who rely on special education services.”