Advertisement

The cost of special ed

June 02, 1997

In just one year, the number of special-education students in Pennsylvania has jumped from 287,000 to 294,000, a big chunk of the state's 1.8 million public-schoolchildren. The specialized care many of these pupils require costs plenty, and much of the bill goes to the local districts.

To help them out, the state is proposing changing the rules to allow local boards to set their own limits on class sizes and to allow children to be evulated less frequently. The reaction from parents has been predictable - they're panicking, fearing that governments are trying to economize by denying their children an opportunity to learn. Despite the costs, our sympathy is with the parents, for two reasons.

No one chooses to have a special-needs child; most parents who do would gladly pay any price to have it be otherwise. And from the taxpayers' point of view, it makes sense to deal with these children's needs early, when research suggests it's easier to do so.

Advertisement

To those who say this kind of education is costly, we say yes, but is it going to get any cheaper in the future? Putting in the time now to turn these children into productive, tax-paying citizens will actually save money in the long run.

Saying that won't solve the schools' money problems, however. We disagree with the proposal to allow every district to set its own cap on class sizes, because it would encourage parents to sue local boards for relief, rather than having associations like the Autism Support and Advocacy Group negotiate the matter with state-level school officials.

We suggest a novel approach: Ask the teachers what could be eliminated without harm to the children. We haven't talked to a teacher yet who isn't staggering under a load of paperwork required by someone who doesn't often face a classroom educator's challenges. For once, let's listen hardest to the people closest to the situation.

The Herald-Mail Articles
|
|
|