Friday, August 28, 2009

HC/dd or MR/dd Levies: Fighting a Losing Battle?

Just yesterday, I read over the above memo about the upcoming tax levy campaign from Cheryl Phipps, Superintendent of Hamilton County Board of Developmental Disabilities or Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities.

The very first thing that stuck out was the "no one currently served will be without services" which in the past has been translated as no new students can be accepted at HC/dd formerly known as MR/dd schools. Does this mean that any parent living in Hamilton County looking for a free and appropriate public education for their child with special needs will not find it at the two remaining MR/dd schools even though they are paying for it through property taxes? Aren't parents living in Hamilton County within their legal right to request it as an option if an environment with overall integrated services are not available for their child at the district school?

The next concern I had was reading "asking school districts to share in more of the costs" which from the previous levy has only perpetuated a system of inequity for children with special needs. Children who live in school districts that cannot afford to pay, for example, do not have the same opportunity for a free and appropriate education according to their ability as the children who live in school districts that can afford to pay.

How cannot this be an issue for any county commissioner or anyone determining where children receive their free and appropriate education? Unless they are at an IEP meeting, part of the IEP team, how can they define "services" that ultimately result in how children receive their education?

Once a child is placed into alternative facilities like an HC/dd school, they cannot be transferred without the consent of the parent. The IEP, for example, cannot be "cut and pasted" onto a different location without consenting the parent or caretaker.

The reason why parents and caretakers find their way into HC/dd schools is because the entire facility is dedicated to allowing a free and appropriate education according to a child's special ability and development. It is the least restrictive environment that also enables a child to learn according to their own ability.

What makes HC/dd unique to public school is the physical setting, the special teachers, the all inclusive and integrated sensory therapies throughout the day in general that cannot be duplicated at the district school.

Didn't we learn from the last levy and associated budget cuts which resulted in the closing of Breyer School that school district administrators, county administrators, and HC/dd staff cannot operate in isolation of the families who are only pursuing their child's right to a free and appropriate public education?

What I fear is that we are heading down that road of further narrowing the opportunity to children in our community. What I fear is that parents no longer have control over how FAPE is implemented.

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