ASK - Advocates for Special Kids
"Parents helping parents to understand special education"

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 "ASK" - Advocates for Special Kids
Improving Special Education in Manhattan Beach Unified School District
Through Compliance with IDEA and Parent/School Collaboration

Advocates for Special Kids [ASK] is a parent group which supports families who have children with special needs. Members actively educate themselves about their childrenís disabilities and the full range of services and placement options available to them. ASK works toward improving the delivery of services to students with special needs and has attempted to foster collaboration with MBUSD to develop the services and supports necessary to ensure that ALL children receive an appropriate education.

Over the two years of our organizationís existence, ASK members have become increasingly concerned with the districtís inefficient use of education funds through its failure to implement a comprehensive, system-wide plan for the effective delivery of services. We have also become aware that funds that would be better utilized providing services to children are instead being used to fight the provision of services, to hire attorneys to discourage parents from obtaining such services for their children and to send children out of district to Non-Public Schools [NPS]. This is often contrary to parentsí wishes that their child continue to receive services at the school site. It is also often in spite of the fact that the district school is the studentís least restrictive environment.

District personnel have stated in school board meetings and in the press that special education has resulted in "encroachment" on the general education fund. Special education is part of education in general, not separate from it. Funding the education of a child with disabilities cannot be an "encroachment" on education funds in general unless one views these children with disabilities as somehow unworthy of those funds. More importantly, when it appears that close to half of the funds district personnel claim caused the "encroachment" were not spent on services, rather were spent on legal fees the district chose to incur to defend against having to provide special education services, it becomes clear where the districtís priorities lie.

In addition, we have become concerned with the increasingly adversarial approach taken by district staff in the resolution of complaints. This approach has resulted in a greater number of requests for hearing than would be typically expected for a district of this population.

More troubling is the fact that this adversarial approach is resulting in unnecessary costs to the district and its taxpayers through legal fees it must pay, not only for the districtís defense of these cases but for the legal fees of those parents who prevail and through costs associated with NPSís to which the district sends children.

Most troubling is that this adversarial approach is affecting our children - ALL of them - for it cuts into funding available for much-needed services to children and results in a delay of services to those children who need them. Such a delay not only detrimentally impacts the education of special needs children in the long-term but increases the cost of later interventions. As well, this adversarial approach affects the education of our typical children for whom available funding of programs is cut simply because dollars spent on legal fees are dollars unavailable for the funding of education.



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Copyright © 2001  ASK 
All rights reserved.
Revised: January 25, 2002

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