Special Education In Connecticut

Terminology

The federal law governing special education is called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA. It is codified in Title 20, United States Code, starting at section 1400. It was initially passed in 1975. A number of major reauthorizations have taken place. The two most recent were in 1997 and in December 2004. The December 2004 changes took effect, for the most part, on July 1, 2005. The changes made in the 2004 Act are numerous and varied, but perhaps not revolutionary.

In early 2002, President Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) which is intended to ensure quality education and a high level of accountability. Many of the provisions of NCLB had an uncertain impact on IDEA 1997. Hence, IDEA 2004 attempts to clarify the impact of NCLB.

The IDEA speaks in terms of a State Education Authority (SEA) and a Local Education Authority (LEA). In Connecticut, the SEA is the State Department of Education. The LEA is generally the local school district, which is referred to as the district or the Board. In this context, the Board refers to the district’s administration, not to the actual Board of Education and its elected members.

State and Federal Law

Connecticut passed its special education law in 1967. The federal Education of All Handicapped Children Act initially passed in 1975. Hence, the Connecticut act predates the federal. The federal law did not pre-empt the field. Rather, federal courts can enforce both federal and relevant state law. “Relevant state law” is law which is not inconsistent with federally mandated requirements, both substantive and procedural, of the Act, and includes, inter alia, procedural safeguards which are more stringent than required procedures set forth in the federal law. Burlington v. Department of Education, 736 F.2d 773 (1st Cir. 1984), aff’d 471 U.S. 359 (1985). For the most part, Connecticut and federal requirements have converged. Yet, most of the detailed procedures for eligibility and due process stem from Connecticut law, as does the nomenclature. In Connecticut, there is a Planning and Placement Team (PPT) meeting. In New York, it is called a Committee on Special Education (CSE) meeting. In the federal
law, it is called an Individualized Education Plan Team (IEP Team) meeting.

The Connecticut Approach

The Connecticut State Department of Education (SDE) takes a hand-off approach to local school boards. This compares to New York, where the state department closely regulates most aspects of special education. The Connecticut SDE advises local school boards on questions, when raised. Indeed, SDE also provides advice to parents. The state approves private special education schools, but the approval is largely a matter of seeing if the right boxes are checked, rather than looking at the quality of the education provided. The state, pursuant to federal law, receives and processes complaints, but appears to be interested only in procedural requirements, avoiding making any comments on the substance of the claim. And, the state runs the due process and mediation systems. This is all done by a tiny group of people in Hartford. The SDE also runs the Special Education Resource Center (SERC), which serves as an information clearinghouse, library, and training center. As a general rule, the State Department of
Education sees itself as a consultant, rather than as a regulator.

The Special Education Universe in Connecticut

For the 2007-2008 school year, there were 68,989 children in Connecticut who were designated as eligible for special education services. This number is a drop of 5,000 from five years earlier. Special education students represent about 12% of the total student population of 574,287. Districts vary widely in percentages designated as eligible for special education, with some districts near 5% and others over 18%.

Among disabilities, the largest group, comprising 32% of the special education population, consists of students with learning disabilities (LD). Five years ago, learning disabled students represented 38% of the special education population. The next largest group, accounting for 21% of the special education population, contains students with speech or language impairments. Other health impairment (OHI) accounts for 17%, severe emotional disturbance (SED) is 8.5% and intellectual disabilities (ID) are 4%. Some 6.4% of special education students in Connecticut carry the Autism label. The racial differences are, however, significant. The following chart shows the 2007-2008 percentage of each racial/ethnic grouping that has a particular special education designation.

How Education And Employment Work Together In Los Angeles

The largest public school system in the state of California is the Los Angeles Unified School District. The District is the second largest in the country, after the New York City system. In 2005, the District took care of over 710,000 students, and employed more than 74,000. Behind the LA country government, the District is the largest employer.

The whole city of Los Angeles and parts of several nearby localities are served by the District. It even runs its own police department. Amazingly, if the school system was a Fortune 500 company, it would fall in at around 250. It runs almost as many buses as the LA Transportation Authority. Over 500,000 meals per day are proffered in school cafeterias.

The system is known for overcrowded schools, poor maintenance and incompetent administration. The graduation rates are not very high either, leading to hordes virtually unemployable young people going out on the local job market. Additionally, the District has long been derisively known for its top-heavy bureaucracy. Many attempts to reform the system have been implemented, but none too successfully.

The divisive school dropout issue has been at the heart of District reform talks for quite some time. A recent study performed by the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University calculated that only approximately 45 percent of Los Angeles students were graduating in four years.

Lastly, a Washington, D.C. based public policy think tank posited that one year’s class of high school dropouts in time costs the state of California over 38 billion dollars in lost wages, taxes and productivity over the former student’s lifetimes.

Financial Aid For Distance Education Students

You want to attend college via distance education. Problem is, you do not earn enough to pay for the costs of this kind of higher education. What do you do?

Fear not, there is still financial aid available for distance learning students. This is generally true for those who are students of regionally accredited colleges. This may be government assistance in the form of grants and loans, or it may be scholarships provided by private organizations.

Certain types of aid are also available to students who may not be enrolled in regionally accredited schools. Furthermore, many groups conduct annual contests with monetary rewards that students can compete for.

Distance Education Scholarships

Let us examine scholarships given to students patronizing distance education. These forms of financial aid are given out to those students who meet a certain criteria.

Some organizations look for students who possess academic potential or have demonstrated academic achievement.

Others have simpler requirements such as particular talents, native language spoken, or religious affiliation.

Individual School Scholarships

Certain limited scholarships are available at some distance education institutions. Such scholarships usually require academic success potential or academic achievement. Some are considered all-inclusive scholarships, which will shoulder all your tuition, associated fees, books, and essential living expenses.

But majority of the scholarships provided are deemed partial scholarships, which only supplement your costs.

Should the online college you apply with be affiliated with a traditional classroom-based university, you might try applying for scholarships offered by the latter. You will need to coordinate with the counseling department or financial aid office of both institutions to receive up-to-date notice of what kind of aid you could expect. Remember though that many scholarships are annually awarded and you will need to get together certain documents before the deadline.

Scholarships From Organizations

The qualifications sought after by organizations that provide student scholarships may vary. Some look for membership in an organization or club. Others require talents and attributes such as skills in writing, music or athletics.

Extra-curricular activities often find their way to scholarship applications because of their value.

Contest Scholarships

There are also contests held by clubs and companies that offer monetary rewards to students who win them. Most of these contests revolve around writing though sometimes the content of the writing has more value than presentation.

Such contests only demand that contestants be enrolled in college full-time. They do not look for a minimum grade point average.

However, before you start entering a contest, be sure that the sponsoring organization is genuine and will not seek a ludicrous obligation from you in exchange for the prize. Majority of legitimate organizations will provide an address and telephone number on their online site.

Stay away from contests that seek an application fee or will bill you when they publish your work.

So You Have Found a Scholarship Opportunity

After you have tracked down which form of financial aid is apt for you, make the most of your opportunity. Apply early to anticipate the length of time it will take you to get supporting documents together. You may also try to get an authority on financial aid applications (such as one of your former teachers) to check out your application content to weed out any potential mistakes.

Even if you are not accepted for the first scholarship you apply for, it is not the end of the world. Keep plugging at the application process since you will get the hang of the way the system works. In the end, you will be the one to benefit anyway so be persistent and your efforts will be rewarded.