For D.C. students, a tale of two call centers

When something goes wrong, parents of D.C. special-education students dial the call center.

The call center is housed in the Office of the State Superintendent for Education’s Department of Transportation, and handles 330 calls a day — about one call for every 11 students who the city buses to school, because their neighborhood school can’t provide the special-education services the student requires.

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Linwood Center receives $50,000 from Knott Foundation

The Linwood Center, in Ellicott City, received $50,000 from the Marion I. and Henry J. Knott Foundation to fund its supported employment program for adults with autism.

Linwood provides education, employment and residential services for children and adults with autism and related developmental disabilities.

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Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago will use a five-year, $1.25 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to train educators to help youth with disabilities transition from high school to adult life.

The researchers will partner with the Chicago Public Schools, working with youths with a range of disabilities. The grant also will enable the researchers to form a network of educators and agencies that focus on youths with disabilities.

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District wins appeal of special education ruling

The District has won a significant legal victory in its bid to lift a federal court injunction imposed 16 years ago because it wasn’t paying tuition and other services for special education students in a timely manner.

On Friday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reversed a ruling last year by U.S. District Court Judge Paul L. Friedman rejecting the city’s motion to drop the injunction, which is part of the Petties class action lawsuit.

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“SPECIAL EDUCATION TRANSPORTATION” AND “SPECIAL EDUCATION SERVICES FOR PRESCHOOL CHILDREN”

Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown announces the scheduling of a Public Oversight Roundtable by the Committee of the Whole on “Special Education Transportation” and “Special Education Services for Preschool Children.” The public oversight roundtable is scheduled for Monday, December 12, 2011, at 10:00 a.m. in Room 500 of the John A. Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW. The purpose of the public oversight roundtable is to allow government officials the opportunity to provide an update on the District of Columbia’s effort to improve transportation for special education students and to provide a response to the recent federal court ruling that the District has failed to provide special education services to hundreds of eligible preschool-age children.

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A federal judge has ruled that District of Columbia public schools must make sweeping changes to how young children with disabilities are located and served.

In a ruling last week, Judge Royce Lamberth said the district must ensure that 8.5 percent of children between the ages of 3 and 5 are enrolled in special education and related services, as required by federal law.

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DC Public Schools recently opened a second facility to serve DC parents who are concerned that their preschool-age child may have a disability or a developmental delay. However, as a judge’s ruling made clear last week, ineffective managers of these facilities are allowing children with special needs to fall through the cracks.

This is not only tragic for these children, but extremely expensive when DCPS identifies their special needs much later.

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A judge renders D.C. schools speechless

Regarding the Nov. 17 Metro article “Ruling: D.C. falls short on special-ed”:

A D.C. Public Schools spokesman has “no comment” on a federal judge’s ruling that the District has failed to provide special education services to hundreds of preschool-age children. How about an apology, to start? Given a reporter’s ability to review the ruling with enough speed to publish an article on its implications in the next day’s paper, is it too much to expect DCPS to issue a statement? Couldn’t it have predicted this decision based on the District’s shameful record of services to children with special needs?

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AUGUSTA, Maine — Under the short-term spending measure passed in October, Congress cut federal funds for special education, disadvantaged youth programs, teacher improvement programs and career and technical education. Maine Education Commissioner Steve Bowen said the cuts total nearly $1.5 million in Maine and have already taken effect.

“We are doing what we can to minimize the impact on local schools,” he said. “But we can only absorb so much within our existing funds.”

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The D.C. special education system’s odyssey through the federal courts continues. On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth ruled that while there has been some improvement, the District needs to dramatically ramp up its efforts to identify, assess and serve preschool-age children with special needs.

And after multiple attempts to end court supervision and return sole responsibility for special education transportation service to the District, Judge Paul L. Friedman has extended the “transition period” to Oct. 31, 2012.

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