Special Education in Michigan

School districts in Michigan are struggling to find ways to meet the needs of students.  Special education students pose a big problem districts because the funding received by the district does not meet the cost of providing services.  With the cost for educating an impaired child well over $30k annually and funding not matching that cost the districts look for costs savings.  Some districts look to provide necessary service in specialized classrooms where resources can be shared and cost mitigated.  Specialized resources, such as therapists, rotate through districts instead of being assigned to one particular school.  Districts get creative with mentoring programs that use students from higher grades to assist in some classes or activities.  These type of activities provide districts some flexibility in delivering the required services to their students and that relieves some pressure from the budgets.

Other districts, however, seem to take a different approach.  Rather than develop ways to reduce the cost of delivery services, they work to reduce the number of students in their schools who need services.  This of course is not done under a published policy, but by actions throughout the district supported by their leadership.  Activities like excluding special needs students from activities that their peers are participating.  One district went so far as to not allow a special needs student to attend a Valentine's Day party per the instruction of the principal and the district's special ed director.  Districts obtain insurance policies to fight parents who seek to help their children in due process hearings.  Ultimately, parents are left to ask, "Do I want my special needs child in a hostile environment?"  Many move on to better run districts.

The law says that money is not to be considered a factor in delivering services to special ed students.  It clearly is.  The difference is in the attitude of the school district toward this obligation.  Good ones find ways to make it happen.  Other districts view these special students a burdens that they would rather not deal with at all. 

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