The Law Center, the Education Law Center and the Philadelphia Right to Education Local Task Force have sent a letter to Philadelphia School District Superintendent Dr. William R. Hite, urging the District to address how it will properly support students with disabilities and students who speak English as a second language as it plans massive school closures.
Among the issues addressed is how the District will prepare Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) for all of the affected students in the limited time between the announcement of the school closures and the beginning of the next school year. The revised list of school closures includes approximately 1,875 students with IEPs. For each of these students, the District will need to go through the full IEP team meeting process – which includes meetings and discussion with parents – to plan for the transition to a new school. It seems highly unlikely that there would be enough hours or manpower to do so for all of these children in a matter of months.
We also express concern about the lack of funding for translation services. There are approximately 18,785 students whose parents have indicated a need for language assistance in the school closure process. The District approved a Request for Proposals for $50,000 over the next 1.5 years for translation services, but this amount is grossly insufficient to cover the cost of translating notices and IEPs for each family.
We request that the District provide a detailed plan that includes: an agreement to provide additional special education staff between March and August 2013 to meet the IEP needs of these students; an agreement to reduce the number of schools closing in the fall of 2013 so that the number of students with IEPs who will be affected corresponds to what the District can manage during that time; a realistic budget for translation services; and an assurance that all receiving schools will, throughout the next school year, have adequate funds for translation and interpretation services to assist with the transition.