Murphy’s Education Department Says It’s Not Their Problem When Districts Don’t Follow Special Education Law

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The New Jersey Department of Education says it is not currently monitoring whether school districts are complying with a state law about services that students with disabilities missed out on during the pandemic, despite claims from advocates that more state supervision is needed.

That’s the first line of a new Chalkbeat article that describes how New Jersey school districts are ignoring a law passed last March that requires them to compensate students with disabilities for missed services due to Covid-related school closures and remote instruction. According to the law’s regulations, schools must hold Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings and make determinations about pandemic-related compensatory education. Yet many remain non-compliant.

Why are school districts ignoring the law?

Because the Murphy Administration’s DOE isn’t bothering to keep track of whether they are compliant. Special education staff are scarce, services—speech, occupational,, physical therapies, among others–are expensive (although another bill allocates $18 million to reimburse districts), and not every parent is fluent in disability advocacy. And so, despite the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) that requires state departments of education to supervise school districts to ensure students receive the services they’re entitled to, NJ students are losing out.

(Related: “Special Education Advocates Underwhelmed by State Education Department’s Report“)

Meanwhile DOE staffers spend State Board of Education meetings blathering on about inclusion and equity as, simultaneously, students with disabilities are excluded from full access to programming and disenfranchised by the nature of their differences.

Yet we’ll cut the DOE a break: the law itself, S905, doesn’t assign oversight to any entity; one can only assume the Department is comfortable with this laissez-faire approach, Kathleen Ehling, assistant commissioner for the division of educational services at the department, said as much: ” the state education department is not required to collect data regarding school district compliance.”

Therefore they won’t. Therefore students with disabilities, already disadvantaged, are left behind.

EXPLAINER: What Is an IEP and How to Make Sure Your Child’s Needs Are Met

 

 

 

 

 

 

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