Special education parents continue to advocate for inclusion

The San Dieguito Union High School District (SDUHSD) board approved its Local Control Accountability Plan for the 2017-18 school year at its June 22 board meeting.

The LCAP depicts district goals and actions to address state priorities and details how the district will utilize state Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) supplemental funds for “high need” students, those that fall into categories of low-income students, English language learners and foster youth.

Some special education parents have argued that the LCAP fails to address the needs of special education students, whom they believe to be the highest need and most under-performing population in the district. While the LCAP is created with lots of stakeholder input, special education forum parents said the LCAP team met with them just once but didn’t ask for their input.

At the previous June 8 board meeting, parents submitted a petition to the district advocating for curriculum and facilities improvements for special education students. Some parents voiced frustration that neither the budget nor the district’s LCAP was changed to reflect some of the concerns expressed.

SDUHSD Superintendent Eric Dill said amending the LCAP isn’t as simple as just adding new goals as dollars are committed to those actions. He said they haven’t made changes since receiving the petition because they need to have a plan to add services or facilities before they just plug in a dollar number. As plans develop, the district can work to put those improvements or changes into the general fund or capital budget.

SDUHSD President Amy Herman said the district is open to looking at ways to amend the LCAP in future and working collaboratively with parents to making sure they are addressing student needs.

Since the June 8 meeting, the district has budgeted for the cash register requested by one special education student for better vocational training and Herman toured the adult transition portables at Earl Warren Middle School that many parents complained about. Herman said while the portables are still under construction, they are exploring bringing more natural light into the rooms with more windows and doors with windows.

For the LCAP, parents requested that special education be broken out separately so that “poor proficiency” rates would be acknowledged and so that the district could craft specific goals to address student achievement and improvement in career readiness.

Dill said the expenditures in the LCAP are tied to the $1.9 million in supplemental funding they receive for English language learners and foster youth. But the district has a $138 million budget and all of the special education expenditures are included in that $138 million. There is some overlap as some special education students fall into the LCAP categories of low income or English learners but Dill said programs designed for special education are worked into the overall budget.

In her public comment, La Costa Canyon parent Lucile Lynch mentioned how the California Department of Education’s special education division is moving to include students with disabilities in the LCFF system and school districts such as Carlsbad Unified have included special education students in its LCAP goals.

Special education parents recognized that the district had to meet a July 1 deadline on its LCAP so rather than jeopardize state funding, they suggested a compromise.

Parent Sophy Chaffee said she would like to see the district’s new special education team seek input from the special education parent forum and work to draft one-to-two new LCAP goals to meet the needs of chronically under-performing students.

“These plans can work and can drive improvement. Adding a goal or two to the LCAP isn’t a panacea to the problems we presented but taking these actions would show us that you’re listening to our concerns,” Chaffee said. “The clock is ticking on our draft petition – we would rather work with the district than file formal complaints.”

Dill said he liked the offer to work with the parent forum in the fall and learn more about where there are gaps in performance and make specific goals about how to raise student achievement and performance and what supports are necessary.

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