Monday •  August 30, 2021

HCPSS Special Education Staff & Students are in Desperate Need of Increased Supports

 

The title of this post says it all: HCPSS special education staff & students are in desperate need of increased supports.  The discussion of this issue is long overdue and extremely important, especially in light of the recent news that Superintendent Martirano is proposing to spend up to $500,000 in COVID-19 ESSER-II funds to hire an additional special education-focused litigation attorney.  To set the stage, here is a recent powerful letter authored by the parent of an HCPSS student with a disability (and a dedicated 17-year parent volunteer to the HCPSS community) to Superintendent Martirano and the Board of Education (BOE):

During the Fall 2019 semester, the heated school redistricting process overshadowed a critically urgent plea that came from leading members of the HCPSS Special Education staff.  At a November 2019 public meeting, HCPSS special education teachers passionately & emotionally testified in front of the Board of Education to beg for more Special Education program supports after it had been woefully underfunded for years.  This included testimony from the 2019 HCPSS Teacher of the Year:

After this testimony, Jen Mallo replied to them, promising to “figure it out” and give them the supports that they needed: 


Unfortunately, this speech would later prove to be merely feigned empathy and full of empty promises.

 

Superintendent Martirano stated in February 2020 that the requested Special Education budget was a “barebones request to meet the needs of our current student body” and that “the direct impact to our teachers [would be] debilitating” if any cuts were made to this already barebones request:

 

Despite this, the Board went on to vote 4-3 on February 11, 2020 for ~$4 million in cuts to the requested Special Education funding for FY21:

A total of 216 new Special Education hires were deemed to be essential to meet the bare minimum needs of the current student body.

 

As a result of the targeted cuts to this program, only 106 new Special Education support staff were hired — less than half of what was requested.

 

Having seen that their pleas had fallen on deaf ears, the 2019 Teacher of the Year who testified for this cause in November 2019 resigned from HCPSS in early 2020.

The HCPSS definition of ‘Equity’ is: “to provide the access, opportunities and supports needed to help students, families and staff reach their full potential by removing barriers to success that individuals face.”

 

Adequate special education supports are critical to removing “barriers to success” that HCPSS’s neediest students face.  Any cuts to these supports only exacerbate existing inequities.

 

By targeting special education funding for the bare minimum of support, the majority of the Board demonstrated just how hollow HCPSS’s Call to Action of “Leading with Equity” really is.

 

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