Legislative Update: Senate Passes NJEA-Approved BillMarch 20, 2013
The Politics of NJ’s “Voucher Bill”March 22, 2013
A report commissioned by ASAH, the NJ consortium of private special education schools found that students in these out-of-district placements have better outcomes than students placed within public districts in more inclusive settings.
Today’s NJ Spotlight interviews the researcher who compiled and interpreted the data, Professor Deborah Carran of Johns Hopkins University.
“The most amazing thing I found is that the number and proportion of these kids that are going into post-secondary education,” said Carran in an interview. “They are going into junior colleges and four-year colleges. And they are employed and engaged.
“They are doing stuff and not just sitting at home waiting for their parents to take care of them,” she said.
“Ouch,” say parents of kids with disabilities stuck in in-district placements. “ Our kids are not going to be doing stuff! Better sue our districts to pay tuition to private schools.”
It’s hard to take the study too seriously, in part because the only thing I can find on the study is a one-page description. And Prof. Carran seems to have developed a nifty little cottage industry, providing similar research and conclusions for the private special ed consortium in Baltimore, which also commissioned a study.
On the other hand, her work on qualitative differences in special ed placements and the impact on reintegration goes back to at least 1994.
In NJ, this subject has hefty resonance because our special education costs are so high, over $3.3 billion per year. (See here.) NJ Spotlight points out that NJ school districts’ rate of placing students in out-of-district placements is 8%, far higher than any other state in the country, and certainly that accounts for some of the cost. More fundamentally, the expense is due to our ineffective infrastructure of almost 600 districts. This sort of fragmentation impedes scale and stymies districts’ efforts to develop the same sort of programming as private schools, which are able to draw students from many districts.
One commentator on the ASAH report was Deborah Jennings, co-director of the Statewide Parent Advocacy Network, who said, “I would hate for families to generalize from this study that a private school placement is the answer for their child.Special education is not just about a place, but it’s about individual children receiving the services, supports, accommodations, and modifications to achieve their greatest potential.”