The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Result-oriented system better for schools


Washington, D.C., bureaucrats are arguing whether New Mexico should lose $34 million in federal special education funding because it didn’t spend as much on those students in 2011 as it did in 2009.

Ditto for 2012.

To be clear, this is a dollars-out-the-door equation with spending, not results, as the bottom line.

The feds don’t care that a state with around 2 million people spends around $500 million in combined federal and state funds annually on special education — roughly a 20-80 split.

They don’t care that New Mexico uses a funding formula based on enrollment, thus fewer special education students automatically triggers less spending.

They don’t care that New Mexico has historically tried to game the system by lumping “gifted” students in with disabled students, skewing the real and perceived needs.

And they don’t care that a Legislative Finance Committee report revealed that disabled students with Individualized Education Programs do worse in every category than students without them — and those students are not meeting targeted special ed graduation, dropout or Standards Based Assessment performance rates.

No, the feds just want New Mexico to spend the money.

A better plan would be to follow the August 2013 LFC staff recommendations reforming special education funding along the federal model used in eight states: a census-based method that “encourages appropriate identification rates and placements in least costly environments.”

The LFC report says that reform alone “reduces over-identification and over-placement incentives (and) increases flexibility to fund cost-effective placement options.”

If New Mexico had opted for equity and efficiency in fiscal 2013, it “would have generated an additional $35 million in special education revenue to improve instruction and services.”

And aren’t student-centric instruction and services what should be improved rather than spending irrespective of results?

The LFC also recommends removing gifted students from the special ed category and revising that funding rate, converting to a statewide IEP system for efficiency and consistency, streamlining due process hearings and promoting alternatives to them, and replicating best practices across the state.

On the other hand, New Mexico could stick with the status quo, follow the federal model being touted in D.C. and simply spend more than its 2009 high-water mark of $461 million, getting more special education money out the door rather than getting quality programming that delivers results to its true special ed students.

And that serves who, exactly?

— Albuquerque Journal


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