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Cost/Type of Special Ed

Original post made by Info on Special Ed, Fairmeadow, on Oct 18, 2016

I'm curious what PAUSD spends on Special Ed, how many kids we have enrolled, by severity/type, ideally at which school level (elem, middle, high), and how that compares to other districts nearby and across the country, both in number of kids and cost of program. Does anyone know where I can look to find that data? I'm curious if we spend more or less than nearby districts, if we have more or fewer IEPs than nearby districts, etc. I get the impression that we have a lot of IEPs, and I'm curious how those are distributed and what they "cost" the district. I think most of them are little cost, so I'd like to better understand the nature of Special Ed spending.

Comments (11)

20 people like this
Posted by No Transparency
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 19, 2016 at 1:21 pm

No Transparency is a registered user.

PAUSD administrators will NEVER give out any information on anything, but especially not on Special Education.

The district makes no bones about the fact that the Special Ed kids are an embarrassment to them, and that they drag their test scores down!


3 people like this
Posted by mom
a resident of Mountain View
on Oct 19, 2016 at 8:27 pm

IEPs generally cost very little, as do 504 plans. Aides cost more, but that doesn't come out of the PAUSD budget.

Has PAUSD been whining about the cost of IEPs? I wouldn't be surprised. But IEPs are EVERYWHERE. North, South, East, and they'd be West if it didn't find you in the ocean. Please, Palo Alto. Just budget right and you could stop whining about EVERY.THING.


2 people like this
Posted by mom again
a resident of Mountain View
on Oct 19, 2016 at 8:29 pm

also, I really don't mean to offend, but this information that you're asking for is STRICTLY confidential so it's not going to pop up somewhere on the Internet. This is information that, if leaked, would potentially ruin a childs reputation. IEPs are generally not public knowledge at school.


4 people like this
Posted by Info on Special Ed
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 19, 2016 at 9:37 pm

Info on Special Ed is a registered user.

@mom, sorry for any confusion, I'm not asking for any personal information -- that would be highly confidential. Just information about how it's run and aggregate spending amounts. It sounds from your information that it costs the district relatively little. I'd heard figures of 20% or so of the budget going to Special Ed, and about 10% of kids enrolled, though presumably most of those are on the "less serious" side, if there is such a thing. I'm just interested in learning more about how this program is run. I have no interest at all on which kids are enrolled. I hope all are being well served.


13 people like this
Posted by numbers
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 21, 2016 at 10:12 pm

Assume that 10% of your students have an IEP or 504. That's the standard number for a public school in the Bay Area, give or take. The strong majority of these students cost the district very little. They're mainstreamed and in general education classes. Perhaps they have extra time on standardized tests. Maybe they get an extra check in with a counselor twice a month. The sole cost is that they need to have special education case manager and the limit is 28-1, meaning you need a 100k+ special education teacher for every 28 special education kids (12-1 for mod/severe). There are also a lot of moving parts to the special education process (speech, psych, OT, PT, etc) in terms of staffing.

The big cost comes from:

1) students needing private placement -- this can run $100k+ a year per student
2) one to one aides -- assume $25k a year but districts like PAUSD will cut corners and make them classroom aides, even though this is a violation of the student's IEP
3) administrators "needed" at the district level to address the parental concerns from special education students -- Many of these positions are unnecessary if issues were properly addressed at the school level
4) lawyers -- a huge cost -- litigation can cost the district in the low six figures rather easily, partly why districts often settle and just agree to the demands of the parents. This of course means that parents know that they have to get attorneys to get anything done for their student. Vicious cycle.


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Posted by Info on Special Ed
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 22, 2016 at 6:48 pm

Info on Special Ed is a registered user.

Thanks @numbers, that is pretty interesting, not what I would have thought.


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Posted by numbers
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 22, 2016 at 7:14 pm

Glad it was of some help. Feel free to ask more questions if you want.


5 people like this
Posted by Special Education Review Delayed
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Oct 22, 2016 at 9:44 pm

Special Education Review Delayed is a registered user.

@ numbers -
I think this may mean Non-Public Schools (NPS) and not Private Placements. NPS' schools are a system of schools set up for severe disabilities only after a child could not succeed in the school District, despite attempts at interventions. They are paid for by school districts. They do not all cost over $100k, although some certainly do if the NPS school the District favors charges extra for every service (counseling, therapy). My heart goes out to those children and families.

Some students also need residential placements, usually related to severe mental illness. That is more costly. It is an issue because many felt PAUSD tries to put all disabled children needing a school for Emotionally Disturbed (ED), even if the child does not have that need. Stories abound in the past couple years of PAUSD only offering families ED schools because it's the only schools PAUSD uses.

Private Placements are just private schools, which may not be paid by PAUSD at all. (Both Board Members and Board Candidates for election have their children in Private Placements, with no indication it for special needs reasons or that the District pays for them.) Some private schools cost a lot of money, some don't. Looking at the NPS schools PAUSD uses, they really don't appear to cost that much overall. Not all schools are listed in the warrants, they could be paid for by or to the County, so it is hard to know. From what I can determine, there are many private schools in the region that charge much higher tuition ($45K) than the NPS' or private schools PAUSD uses ($23K, $35K which include services without extra cost.).

I think 1:1 aides can cost more than $25K, $35k sounds more accurate. Districts try to have them blend in the class and help others. Most parents do not mind if the aide appears to be for the entire class, or is able to help other students in the class. It is only an issue if the special needs child is not getting the help or supervision and allowed to fail or become violent, engaging in behaviors the aide is there to prevent.

It can be cheaper to send a child to an NPS if the aides and services in public school are expensive and not effective. PAUSD has not done a very strong job of training general education teachers to handle disabilities.

The sad thing is Districts may require parents to hire lawyers to review agreements to send kids to schools, even when Districts wants to send the kids. The parents have to hire lawyers and pay for them alone, even if Districts send the kid away and the family has no resources. Realize, in an attempt to keep children in cheaper public schools, many families spend thousands a year on medical treatment for their disabled children, and have very little money left to pay lawyers.


1 person likes this
Posted by ferdinand
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 23, 2016 at 9:05 am

There is nothing embarrassing about being in special ed except the generic name and the historical connotation it invokes. I investigated having it changed but it is a huge bureaucracy with many legal tags that people seem to think are insurmountable. Special ed includes GATE [gifted and talented] as well as learning differences such as dyslexia. As you may know, students with dyslexia are often above average intelligence when tested in their modality.

There is lots of information about individual schools on their School Accountability Report Card but nothing about special ed nor free and reduced lunch, which can often mirror the rates of special ed since being delayed in school is intrinsically linked with poverty and attained education level. Here is the JLS report for 2013 if you want to look one over: Web Link.

Another route would be to request general numbers about special ed enrollment through the public records request link [publicrecords@pausd.org]. We don't want specific site data revealed because it can discourage enrollment and reduce morale if parents think we're overly focused on special ed and not serving all students equitably. If you get this data will you share it here? Thank you!


11 people like this
Posted by NPSs
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 23, 2016 at 3:10 pm

From my experience, the district will suggest an NPS as a penultimate offer once parents, fed up with the district's inexpensive and inadequate accommodations, have already sent their failing and/or very distressed child to a residential school. Presumably this is an attempt for the district to avoid paying for a residential school. It is nearly impossible to get the district to pay for a residential school unless the child is acutely suicidal; even then, the placement will be for as short a time as possible. (The only thing IMO the district fears more than paying for a residential school is the bad publicity from another PAUSD student suicide.)


3 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 18, 2016 at 3:01 pm

Parents seek legal restitution after facing almost insurmountable obstacles from the district:
- school staff seem to be trained to avoid recognizing learning disabilities
- resource staff do not know how to either perform or interpret psychoeducational assessments
- the district will fight tooth and nail rather than admit a student needs help and provide that help.

This is so backward. 10-20% of the population is dyslexic. These children should be identified in K/1st grade and given appropriate intervention where it is most effective. Later intervention is less effective, takes much longer, and has allowed for the children to face their own (wholly unnecessary) failure.

The district is perfectly happy with how things are, they seem very reluctant to change anything, to actually want to proactively help disabled children. It seems that only when they are risking something important to them (i.e. money via a lawsuit) do they take action. It is a very sorry state of affairs.


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