In the State

This Is Why We Can’t Have Real Conversations: Anti-Reform Activists Conflate Two Entirely Different Special Education Funding Proposals

The usual suspects were out this week railing against a special education funding proposal developed by the Connecticut School Finance Project. Recent op-eds by Robert Cotto and Jon Pelto claim the school finance project conspired in the shadows with the Malloy administration to undercut special education funding.

Turns out, they were conflating two separate plans as if they were the same thing. As Katie Roy, the Executive Director of the CT School Finance Project points out in a recent Op-Ed for the CT New Junkie, these plans are unrelated:

“The Co-op is not what the governor has proposed, and the details distinguishing the two plans are not “murky” as Cotto suggests.

The governor’s Special Education Grant proposal reimburses local public school districts for their special education costs on a sliding scale from 0 to 53.93 percent, based on a town’s relative wealth. Although the proposal is structurally equitable, it falls short of meeting identified best practices for funding special education, fails to address the unpredictability of special education costs that continues to impact communities across the state and may result in the misidentification of students as requiring special education services…”

In both pieces, Cotto and Pelto cherry picked testimony against the Special Education Co-Op, the plan the CT School Finance Project proposed to help districts fund special education costs, as to make it seem like this “scheme” is only supported by “corporate education reformers” out to bamboozle special education funding from the state.

If you’re interested: More information on the proposal can be found here.

Meanwhile, testimony from parents of special education students supporting the proposal was completely omitted from their articles. (Here are two examples: Venezia Michalsen and Lisa Nichols)

Say it with me now; CONFIRMATION BIAS!

That’s what seems to be happening here. Any excuse to bash “the other side.” That’s how polarized we’ve become. Even trying to solve the very real issue of how best to fund special education costs turns into name calling and straw men.

I confess that in the past I’ve certainly been guilty of this too. It’s something I’m working on. The point I’m trying to make is no matter where it’s coming from (including this blog), this kind of mindset is reductive. There’s room for legitimate criticism, but Cotto calling the proposal a “Ponzi scheme,” doesn’t do anything to push the conversation forward.

Connecticut doesn’t fully reimburse schools for special education costs. This has wreaked havoc on districts, particularly ones like Bridgeport and Waterbury, that are already underfunded. For example, last year, an unexpected increase in special education and other non-discretionary spending mid-year in Bridgeport, resulted in the laying off of kindergarten paraprofessionals.

The way the state currently funds special education is a problem. One that needs to be addressed.

So, rather than scare parents by claiming the School Finance Project is trying to create a voucher system (They oppose the use of vouchers) and making claims with little evidence, doesn’t something like this deserves an honest discussion?  


What do you think?

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