|NJEA Secretary-Treasurer and special education teacher Marie Blistan was among the dozens of special education stakeholders who attended the SBOE meeting and the scores of teachers and parents who have written letters asking Board members to vote against the proposed amendments.
When the Department of Education (DOE) introduced changes to the code governing special education in New Jersey, officials said they were providing districts with flexibility and cutting costs. Most parents and educators, however, believe the proposal will significantly reduce the quality of service, and they are stating their case in a big way.
NJEA Secretary-Treasurer and special education teacher Marie Blistan led the chorus of opposition at yesterday’s State Board of Education (SBOE) public testimony session. She was among the dozens of special education stakeholders who attended the SBOE meeting that morning and the scores of teachers and parents who have written letters asking Board members to vote against the proposed amendments.
The most egregious changes to the code would allow districts to assign case manager responsibilities to special education teachers and guidance counselors.
Some of the other proposed changes include:
- Allowing school districts 90 days to complete an evaluation of a student with a disability when that student transfers from one NJ school district to another in-state district, or when a student transfers from an out-of-state district to a NJ district (current code requires an evaluation within 30 days);
- Allowing extended time for class-size waivers;
- Disregarding notification to parents after a class-size waiver has been granted; and
- Reducing timelines of notifications to parents.
Although rumors have circulated that the DOE plans to withdraw the proposed code for now, Blistan noted that the Special Education Stakeholder Coalition, which includes NJEA and more than a dozen other advocacy groups, has not received confirmation of this information to date.
Fears that the code may appear on the SBOE agenda at its July or August meeting are prompting parents and teachers to continue pressuring state officials and elected leaders.
In her testimony, Blistan reminded board members that Governor Chris Christie signed a law that called for the formation of a special education task force that would study the possibility of inproving the way special education services are delivered to New Jersey’s students.
“This task force must be put into place before any regulations are considered,” Blistan argued. “It will work to ensure that the needs of our special education students are not forgotten.”
What you can do
NJEA, along with other leaders from the Coalition will be presenting to the Joint Committee on Public Education on Tuesday, June 11. NJEA is urging members to continue to TAKE ACTION in the following ways:
- Use the talking points to call your Senate and Assembly members and ask them to co-sponsor A-3986 (Benson, Diegnan, O’Donnell). This legislation would limit the role of case managers to child study team members (and speech language specialists when they act as members of the child study team).
Hello, my name is ___________from ____________. I am calling to ask you to co-sponsor A-3986. This legislation would ensure that properly trained child study team members continue to manage special education cases. It will allow special education teachers and counselors to continue to serve their students without distraction. This will benefit all students and the school community as a whole. I hope I can count on your support. Thank you.
2. Contact Governor Christie at 609-292-6000 or http://www.state.nj.us/governor/contact/ and let him know that you disagree with the proposed regulations. Ask him to withdraw them.
3. Write letters to editors of local and regional newspapers.
Use these talking points, and remember, your continuous efforts are making a difference! The Department of Education has an obligation to ensure that each proposed regulatory change has a positive impact on student instruction and achievement. This fight is crucial to the rights of our special education students in New Jersey.