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Los Angeles Unified School District Shortchanging Special Education

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With the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) constantly crying poverty, it is easy to see why Special Education programs are looked at with suspicion by parents who have children without special needs. When your child is sitting in an overcrowded classroom, it is natural to ask why the Special Education classroom down the hall has an adult for every child. However, one would expect better from education professionals. In my new blog at the K-12 News Network, I detail how both the LAUSD and the Independent Financial Review Panel played into this us versus them point of view that pits Special Education students against those in General Education.

In one example, the panel came to the conclusion that District must guard against being "over inclusive," especially in the case of "African-Americans and Latino kids [who] are over represented among Special Education students." In reality, too many parents are forced to hire lawyers to make sure that their students receive the proper services. The panel also concluded that the District can "reduce the cost curve which is threatening to grow way out of control" by getting students "mainstreamed as quickly as possible." Conditions like autism are not the equivalent of broken bones. A cast is not available that can reset my daughters' brains and send them on their way to General Ed classrooms.

Missing from the panel's report was any evaluation of how the District's efforts to deprofessionalize Special Education teachers is affecting the education of students. If Dr. Richard Vladovic was a parent of a child being taught by a Special Education professional he might be less likely to suggest that these professionals are over-licensed despite the fact that he admits that when evaluating Special Education training he does not "know when you get down to the child level if it makes that much difference if they take two theory classes and do 600 hours versus 1,200 and take three theory classes." He also might question why the Board "ratified a contract with Teach for America (TFA) to provide trainees to fill 25 teaching positions in Special Education." These "fellows get five weeks of intensive summer training" before being sent into the classroom to teach the most vulnerable stakeholders in the District.

The District "has been under federal court oversight since 1996 for systemic non-compliance of Special Education law," but still cannot figure out that establishing value for these programs is more important than blind cost cutting. Unless, they can do better, the quality of education for all students and the fiscal health of the district is at risk.

For the complete story, please visit


I am a former candidate for the District 3 seat on the LAUSD School Board, founder of Change The LAUSD and member of the Northridge East Neighborhood Council. Opinions are my own. Please click here to sign the petition asking the LAUSD to rescind the TFA contract.

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Carl Petersen is a parent, an advocate for students with special education needs, an elected member of the Northridge East Neighborhood Council, a member of the LAUSD's CAC, and was a Green Party candidate in LAUSD's District 2 School Board race. During the campaign, the Network for Public Education (NPE) Action endorsed him, and Dr. Diane Ravitch called him a " (more...)

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