September 7, 2010

Cutting to an Engorged Bone

Justin Katz

The headline is "Districts Cutting to the Bone," but the interesting item comes at the end:

Like many districts, West Warwick has been bringing back students with special needs who previously were sent to private schools in an effort to both save money and better serve students.

"We've brought back about 90 kids in the past two years," he said. "But when you don't have an assistant special education director, even though you have 900 children in the district with special needs, and you don't have an assistant superintendent or a curriculum coordinator or any assistant principals at the elementary schools ..... The point is, we are beyond the point where you look at the budget and are cutting. We can't even cut the crayons any more. There are no more crayons."

Nine hundred special needs students? In 2009, the district had 3,657 students total. That means exactly 25% of all students are "special needs." I'd suggest that either the town of West Warwick would do better to spend its money on investigating environmental toxins or special education has become an inflated measure.

Our state pays nation-leading money for its education system, and it's only ever gone up, across time. Maybe the bone to which we've supposedly just cut is just cartilage. Or maybe it's a tumor.

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I love the 'cut into the bone' wailing that municipalities are doing.

I had a Valley Breeze or a Pawtucket Times last fall that had a big long editorial by mayor Doyle about how he had 'cut into the bone' and there was nothing left to reduce. On the next page, the announcement that the police were adding another seven police officers. Pawtucket has some of the highest per-capita police and fire coverage (and spending) in the country.

To be fair, though, I think that most municipalities don't have much power to cut into their workforces. So many contracts and lawsuits to fight because the state has abjectly failed to provide statutory power for managers and mayors to run their houses as they see fit. Personally, I'd like to see a state law that allows the termination of any individual in state or municipal government if any two people directly up the food chain from the person agree to terminate employment.

Instead, we have well-staffed schools with no writing utensils or books. Awesome. Well-done!

Posted by: mangeek at September 7, 2010 5:26 PM

Here's what cut to the bone is, and a lot of places do it:
Split classes, meaning half the kids go early and half go late.
In other words half the teachers get laid off!
See Crowley squirm at that one.

Posted by: Tommy Cranston at September 7, 2010 7:12 PM

I believe "special needs" is defined as any child with an IEP. Given the ever expanding number of "disabilities" requiring an IEP 25% is probably a correct number.

Posted by: Mike P at September 7, 2010 7:45 PM

""West Warwick would do better to spend its money on investigating environmental toxins""

Most of the anti-science, pro-pollution , West Warwick Republicans, claim that NONE of the dozens of closed textile and manufacturing plants in West Warwick have ANY environmental concerns.

Posted by: Sammy at September 7, 2010 8:44 PM

Mike P,

So you're saying that it's the "inflated measure" option? I tend to agree. Conveniently, labeling children and providing an IEP creates the need for more expensive teachers and administrators.

Posted by: Justin Katz at September 7, 2010 9:03 PM
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