So tonight I went to the Wayne RESA meeting in Wayne, Michigan and tonight’s speaker was Dr. Eleanor White and she spent over 45 minutes doing Q&A and it was great as she is a very engaging speaker.
Dr. White explained that Special Education is an entitlement to services and programs for children with disabilities It is not a gift but an entitlement, and I think that we as parents and school administers and teacher need to remember that. Don’t let your district “punk” (my words not hers)you into feeling like they are doing you a favor, most likely they are not, they are following the law and doing what they are legally obligated to do. Her next point was to inform us that OSE (Office of Special Education) is a regulatory agency so they only deal with things that are mandated, things that are law. They can’t help with busing problems, teacher training or para pro training, unless there is a state or federal mandate for it. That I thought was a great point to know because then it lets you know not to spend your time calling OSE for problems with your child’s bus route or the qualifications of you para-pro. She also touched on Feedback loops, she said that is is EXTREMELY helpful to them in the OSE Office when parents call, write or email with questions, concerns, complaints it allows them to know what is going on, what they might be doing wrong and where they could possibly help. So to please continue filtering information to her office. She touched a bit on the State of Michigan’s disproportional problem, she stated that each time a special education student is sent home for a behavioral issue that is should be documented so that the state can react accordingly. A question was asked about a child that is consistently being sent home because of behavioral issues, she informed the parents to keep a journal of how many times that they are sent home and to have the school do a behavioral assessment Her last note was on funding and she stated, “There is NO extra money for special education in the state of Michigan”.
Now I asked her two questions, the first being:
- Does the state conduct financial audits of the school districts on what is done with the money given to them, if so where would I find the reports and what is done if a district is not spending the money the way that they should. She stated that the state does conduct audits of school districts on how their money is spent. That I could obtain the report from our district building under FOIA (freedom of information act) so I will try that and she stated that if they school district is non-compliant with how their money is spent then funds are taken away from them but they do not keep a report of districts that they have had to take money away from
- My second question was regarding the training of teachers and para-pros and she stated that is a school by school thing not a regulatory item.
She also pointed out that there is no mandate stating that there is a certain percentage of special education children that need to be mainstreamed. She stated that it originally started as a memo but it was never turned into a mandate, that districts took it upon themselves to create rules about a child’s placement but there is no law stating that. She also was very vocal about not always having a adult shadowing a child, if a child is able then they must learn to navigate their natural environment and that is difficult to do with an adult traveling behind you all the time. That whenever possible peer supports should be used.
This was one of the most informative meetings that I have been to in a while. I loved how open and honest she was and how approachable and non-judgmental, this meeting was definitely worth the drive. I made some wonderful connections to other parents. Now remember if you are reading this and not in the state of Michigan this is truly a state of Michigan post so sorry. I will have some resources on my resource pages that will be extremely helpful to all.
The rest of the meeting was welcoming new members, the treasurer report and all that good stuff. I hope I have inspired you to learn more, do more and be more. Please become involved in your local Parent Advisory Committee become the change, so many laws have changed as of late in our state in regards to special education, actually the laws changed years ago, they have just recently put them in black and white so that they could be followed and according to Dr. White more changes are to come as they are working on a new rule package now. So, parents, loved ones and care givers stay vigilant continue to communicate with your team, find your allies with other parents, teachers and administrators. Learn the law or at least some of it because it will make you a better advocate for your child and perhaps allow you to help someone else on their journey. Remember we are all in this together, band together with other parents as we can do more as a group than we could ever do alone.
Love and Blessings,