To the editor:
We, the undersigned educators of AOS 93, feel the need to respond to your editorial of Jan. 30, titled “Unsustainable,” and offer the following:
Special education is a civil rights law. It ensures that all students have access to the same educational opportunities, whether they have disabilities or not. The laws that fund special education were the result of parent advocacy to open the doors of public schools to ensure that students with disabilities receive a free, appropriate public education in the same educational environment as their typically developing peers at no cost to their parents or families.
To write that “all towns can do is hope the needs are not as great” stigmatizes students with disabilities and engages in blaming them for the increases in school funding and property taxes.
Furthermore, specifically referencing an individual case in one AOS 93 town a few years ago is a violation of a student and family’s right to confidentiality. The reason for the mandates and laws is to ensure that not only the needs, but also the privacy of our most vulnerable students is protected.
We agree that state and federal regulators should look at and reduce the burden of oversight on local schools; however, everyone is aware that with state and/or federal funding come rules and regulations that are not always welcome. We also agree that state and federal legislators should provide more funding to local schools for special education.
Special education costs are high. It is expensive to provide individualized services to any student, regardless of their abilities. In AOS 93, we have worked diligently to create intradistrict shared programs that attempt to control the risks and the costs of special education for any one community. Additionally, we continue to work with neighboring districts to collaborate and, when appropriate, build partnerships to provide such services.
We can all agree that the problem is not students and their families. It is not teachers, not schools, and not the administrators – the problems have to do with burdensome regulations and inadequate funding.
We have no issues with asking the state for help with this issue; your editorial, however, feels targeted and that is not what we have come to expect from the journalistic high road LCN normally takes. We are Mainers, and that means coming together to help each other. The communities of AOS 93 have been very supportive in providing for the needs of all students, not just because of the mandate – their caring and understanding are beyond the basic requirement. They are an ongoing demonstration of their commitment to community … and we thank you.
Craig Jurgensen, Superintendent
Rick Kusturin, Assistant Superintendent
Ann Hassett, Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment
Sue Fossett, Director of Pupil Services