South Carolina’s public schools aren’t properly serving the needs of special education students.
That’s according to officials at the United States Department of Education (DOE).
A letter sent to State Superintendent Jim Rex from DOE’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) cites the state’s ongoing failure to comply with the federal Individuals with Disabilities Acts (IDEA).
Specifically the state “needs assistance” to meet the requirements of “Part B”, the portion of the law ensuring that children with disabilities, from age 3 to 21, are provided a free appropriate public education.
Among the complaints made by the feds of the State Department of Education:
– South Carolina failed to report the number of special-ed students who graduate or drop out
– The state won’t give DOE information on how (or if) special-ed students are tested
– The state won’t correct arbitrary and inconsistent suspension and expulsion practices in the 85 school districts
– The Education Department refuses to conduct a federally mandated special needs student parent survey
– The state won’t correct instances of low-income and minority children over-classification as “special-needs”
– Details of parents’ appeals and the timeliness of resolution have been withheld
While states like Florida and Georgia have been offering special needs families school choice scholarships, South Carolina continues to stumble along with a big-government / low-expectations style of public school monopoly. In fact, a small group of lawmakers quietly killed a special needs choice proposal last legislative session.
Sadly, the one size fits all vision of the State Department of Education means that special needs students tend to fall through the cracks.
An active group of parents with special needs children attending public schools in South Carolina have requested a meeting with members of the DOE Office of Special Education Programs. They hope to personally voice their frustration with Rex’s SC Department during the fed’s “verification visit” to Columbia. It turns out they have a lot on their minds.
According to more than one engaged parent, the State Department of Education is purposely under-serving special needs students, while collecting piles of cash from Washington to implement the complicated federal requirements of IDEA. Writing to the feds, one frustrated parent explained it like this:
“The State Department of Education (SCDE) can’t even fill out the compliance forms correctly much less ensure a child a Free and Public Education (FAPE) while OSEP typically concludes form-filling correspondence wishing the SCDE better luck next time and directs them to a website for instructional help. OSEP’s continued funding as though everything is satisfactory in SC does nothing but provides negative reinforcement to the SCDE; it provides no reason for them improve. Evidence by fact that the SCDE demostrtates an inability to gather and organize data about districts, SC will continue to be in “gross” noncompliance of the IDEA, while continuing to discriminate, segregate and turn a blind eye on districts who continue to flaunt noncompliance behavior.”