Op-Ed: Special Education Crisis

Op-Ed: Special Education Crisis title=
Screenshot of the January 24th school board meeting
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By Monie de Wit 

As a community member vitally interested in our public schools (Santa Barbara Unified School District), I have noticed there is much more that happens at school board meetings than is typically reported locally.

I’d like to share some highlights: 

  • During the Jan 24th SBUSD board meeting, several members of the Special Education department at Santa Barbara High School spoke up about their concerns during public comment. And the board room was packed with their follow educators, some holding signs that said, “Teachers want to do more than the minimum.” 

  • Joyce Adriansen, President of the Santa Barbara Teachers Union expressed her concern that many staff members feel unappreciated, unsupported, underpaid, and disappointed by how long they have been ignored. She made the point that “supporting teachers is supporting students,” and noted that caseloads are too large, there’s not enough room to maintain compliance or confidentiality. 

  • Other speakers added that leadership is “Not holding us to a high level” and that they were not “Fulfilling our legal duty.” And a paraeducator in the department pointed out that turnover is very high due to low pay and inadequate training. He noted retention is difficult, and that nearly half the paraeducators quit within the first two years. 

  • One of the speakers referred to the Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team (FCMAT) that systematically reviewed the SBUSD Special Education department in 2009. who sent the link to all the board members. For reference:  https://www.fcmat.org/PublicationsReports/SantaBarbaraSDfinalreport612.pdf 

I am particularly concerned about these recurring Special Education issues, remembering the FCMAT report that was termed “brutal” and “scathing” at the presentation to the Board all those years ago.

The presenter memorably added, “Students enter this district with learning disabilities and leave with emotional disturbances.” 

At the time, an ombudsman role was recommended in the FCMAT report, to facilitate communication, ensure compliance and prevent future systemic problems and expensive legal fees, but it was, sadly, ignored by the district leadership. 

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a-1675471319 Feb 03, 2023 04:41 PM
Op-Ed: Special Education Crisis

Paraeducators in SBUSD are paid $16.78/hr, no benefits. It's disturbing. I do not blame them 1% for leaving the job quickly. How could anyone?

salsipuedes Feb 04, 2023 09:59 AM
Op-Ed: Special Education Crisis

Those para-educator jobs were advertised at $30 an hour, how did they get down to $16.78? How much in legal fees and lawsuit payouts is SB Unified paying out these days for its Special Education mess?

a-1675724609 Feb 06, 2023 03:03 PM
Op-Ed: Special Education Crisis

That's the absolute max pay, you only get that much if you've been there over 20 years.

a-1675724885 Feb 06, 2023 03:08 PM
Op-Ed: Special Education Crisis

Check it out yourself. Max pay after 20 years, $24/hr.


RHS Feb 04, 2023 10:03 AM
Op-Ed: Special Education Crisis

For those of us outside the system, "paraeducators" seem to be what used to be called Teacher's Aides but with some more training. As usual the system looks to hire cheap help instead of certified and trained folks. Low paid employees are going to have a high turnover. This sort of thing is common when the public complains about paying public employees fair salaries and benefits. Apparently only those with students in the schools complain. Sad.

CoastWatch Feb 04, 2023 10:56 AM
Op-Ed: Special Education Crisis

Less than $17.00 an hour to help facilitate our kids fitting into a working and productive life... Meanwhile, $100 BILLION ($100,000,000,000.00) of your taxpayer dollars were sent to Ukrainian "government officals"- Historically, one of the most corrupt countries in Europe. Imagine if you will, those funds going into our U.S.A. public infrastructures, building much needed hospitals, trade schools and education.

a-1675560745 Feb 04, 2023 05:32 PM
Op-Ed: Special Education Crisis

Imagine, if you will, what people who never learned relatively recent history in the form of Neville Chamberlain's appeasement policies might cause to happen to the world.

Besides, you're one of the regular con posters bashing any sort of public spending on infrastructure and education. Talk about cognitive dissonance!

Voice of Reason Feb 04, 2023 06:11 PM
Op-Ed: Special Education Crisis

People don’t appreciate how big some of these numbers are. A million seconds is 12 days. A billion seconds is 31 years. A trillion seconds is over 31,000 years. $100 billion dollars would give each of our 130k public schools $750k.

a-1675565980 Feb 04, 2023 06:59 PM
Op-Ed: Special Education Crisis

But you are one who would rail against it. Again, just taking the talking points handed to you by your imbecilic social media pundits without thinking.

ChillinGrillin Feb 05, 2023 12:01 AM
Op-Ed: Special Education Crisis

Pay now or pay later for Ukraine, I guarantee this is cheaper than the alternative of Putin and Xi figuring they can do whatever they want. People like Putin take things until they're stopped, and stopping him has bipartisan support. Your whining was in short supply when Bush dropped over a trillion into Iraq with nothing to show for it.

a-1675586103 Feb 05, 2023 12:35 AM
Op-Ed: Special Education Crisis

I fear that I agree with 5:32's second paragraph especially. The social spending, even for education, would be begrudged and complained about.

Lorax Feb 04, 2023 05:23 PM
Op-Ed: Special Education Crisis

What are the newly elected, reelected board members doing about this? how can the public help?

lovesbalot Feb 04, 2023 06:07 PM
Op-Ed: Special Education Crisis

Lorax:This just happened at last board meeting in January so board has not responded. The current special ed culture is to do too little too late; And resolution is slow and stressful. People of means get tutors and sue the district while those that can't afford to pay attorneys just wait for the district to meet their needs which we can see by our outcomes has a long way to go. 2019 only 6% of students with learning differences took the A-G courses, a series of high school classes that a student must take in order to apply to a UC. Only 2% of English language learners had completed them. This points to systemic change. We know what to do. Change how we teach reading ; universal testing and college readiness as a priority. In the long run being proactive it will save money . With universal testing & intervention there will be 70 % less students in special ed , which costs districts 4x more per student.
A proactive approach early including universal testing,
teaching students in the way they learn best, using the science or reading approach ... the one that focuses on decoding instead of guessing is what successful districts do.

sbdude Feb 05, 2023 09:17 AM
Op-Ed: Special Education Crisis

Over the last 10 years Special Education leadership at the district level has been a revolving door.
Meanwhile, special education at the school level is an underfunded mess.
These two sentences are related somehow.

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