On May 31, 2011 Law Center Director of Disabilities Rights Sonja Kerr testified before the School Reform Commission (SRC) about the potential negative effects of the School District of Philadelphia’s proposed budget cuts from the special education budget.
As Ms. Kerr noted, the services provided to students with disabilities are already governed by Individualized Educational Programs (IEPs) established for thousands of students that parents have already agreed to for the summer and upcoming school year. Services cannot legally be changed without notice to parents and the opportunity for parents to object through administrative proceedings.
With that in mind, she called on the SRC to conduct a detailed review of how the District, with cuts of 77% from Special Education Liaison positions and 5% from Learning and Emotional Support classes, will be able to avoid widespread violations of federal law. Further, the cuts could be counterproductive, as they could open the door for countless special education due process hearings that would quickly cut into whatever savings the District received through budget cuts.
“Without a measured review of this situation,” Ms. Kerr said, “the special education budget should be left unaffected.”
Following her testimony, the SRC conferred with District officials who insisted that the special education budget was based on current IEPs. Commission Member Joseph A. Dworetzky requested that the District issue a detailed answer to the questions raised by Kerr’s testimony. The Law Center eagerly awaits their response.