Extra funds for special ed may be used to lower referral rate

Print More

Although details are still emerging around the compromise version of the federal stimulus package, Chicago Public Schools CFO Pedro Martinez was able to estimate the district’s increase in special education funding will be around $50 million—about $16 million less than the original bill.

Martinez says it’s unclear to what degree the district will be required to use the money to expand services in special education programs or use it, instead, to fill budget gaps in existing programs. Regardless, Martinez says the district will spend at least some money expanding a process called Response to Intervention. RTI forces regular education teachers to document interventions that they have used for students with behavior or academic difficulties before referring them to special education.

 

Although details are still emerging around the compromise version of the federal stimulus package, Chicago Public Schools CFO Pedro Martinez was able to estimate the district’s increase in special education funding will be around $50 million—about $16 million less than the original bill.

Martinez says it’s unclear to what degree the district will be required to use the money to expand services in special education programs or use it, instead, to fill budget gaps in existing programs. Regardless, Martinez says the district will spend at least some money expanding a process called Response to Intervention. RTI forces regular education teachers to document interventions that they have used for students with behavior or academic difficulties before referring them to special education.

The Illinois State Board of Education is requiring all school districts to implement RTI by 2010. Advocates for RTI say it is a best practice and reduces the number of students being referred to special education when all they need is a little extra support. When working right, it also helps decrease the disproportionate number of black students referred for special education. 

But special education advocates are concerned that there is no limit to the length of time students can be in RTI. They worry that some students can be in RTI for years, without being referred and getting the services they need. Also, they don’t want RTI to be a way that CPS avoids special education referrals when students need help.