Archived Story

Sequester hits special ed

Published 11:15pm Friday, March 22, 2013

Federal budget cuts will reduce the quality of instruction special needs students and their parents have grown accustomed to, Suffolk Public Schools’ director for the program says.

As a result of the sequester, which took effect March 1 after federal lawmakers failed to reach an agreement on across-the-board cuts to rein in the deficit, federal funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the Education Jobs Fund and Title VI-B are no longer available to benefit special education programs.

For Suffolk’s public schools, this means the loss of six compliance specialists, three transition specialists, three special education teachers, eight teacher assistants, one assistive technology technician and one special education data specialist.

With the school district asking the city for an additional $9 million for 2013-2014, there was no chance of funding the positions internally, said Antoine Hickman, the district’s director of special education.

“We considered it, but that was a brief consideration,” he said.

The situation will be managed, and compliance maintained, by dispersing responsibilities from the 22 lost positions among other staff, he said, adding that stipends will compensate for extra workloads.

Staff directly affected by the cuts will be reassigned rather than fired, Hickman said, and the district has not been filling special education teaching vacancies, but rather relying on substitutes, in preparation.

At a School Board meeting earlier this month, Louis Bagley, chairman of the district’s Special Education Advisory Committee, argued that by not locally funding the lost positions, the district is hurting “our most vulnerable population in the city — children with special needs.”

Louis, who commended Hickman’s efforts to ameliorate the cuts, suggested the establishment of a fund for donations from the private sector.

“Perhaps we could get enough funding to where we wouldn’t have to worry about losing funds each year,” he said.

“If our schools continue to have this loss of funds, and we put more strain on our teachers,” then the whole city and wider community will suffer, he said.

Hickman said the loss of federal funds would have repercussions.

“It’s going to impact something,” he said, adding that the biggest loss would likely be to the “individual service” special-needs children have enjoyed until now.

“It’s going to be managed. The statement we have been hearing a lot of is ‘doing more with less.’”


  • thekytikat

    Homeschool is an option for special needs kids. I have 3 who would be considered special needs by the public school system. I homeschool them, and provide their therapy based on research and ideas from other homeschooling special needs parents. It is possible.

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  • MrJiggyFly

    I have a grandson who has a learning disability. He receives therapy through the school. The teachers and therapist are angels. His parents’ current private insurance plan has phased out the speech therapy. Now they just found out, that IT therapy is in jeopardy too. In order to get it privately through CHKD or other private providers, it will cost anywhere from $15K to $20K. Not a lot of people is Suffolk, who send their kids to SPS, can afford that option.

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  • TB_suffolklady

    Sorry, but your IEP children will be lost.

    Whitney informed all these positions (20+) that they had lost their jobs back in January. The sequester has nothing to do with this. This is Whitney’s decision. He also knew back in June that he was cutting these.

    He could have maintained all of them in the 13-14 budget, but he instead gave himself and all of the SAO a 3% raise. Whitney and chavis make over 150K, but he cuts people who make less than 50K.

    Great leadership in Suffolk Public Schools.

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  • Lovebug

    The no child left behind guidelines need to be changed. If that could happen money could very well be saved and the positions that need to be in place would continue to be in place. Right now there is alot of money being spent because the no child left behind guidelines are way out of order. Parents need to start paying for their child’s therapy and when their children are suspended or expelled from school the “parent” needs to be responsible for paying for a teacher to come in and home school their child. This should NOT be funded via the school budget in anyway!

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    • am

      Virginia optioned OUT of NCLB. That is why there is the new teacher evaulation system among other things taking place.

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      • Lovebug

        Let me ask you this AM. Your a teacher so you know what goes on in the school system and what money goes out for certain services. If a child is a special needs student and say they get in trouble in school and are expelled or suspended for a period of time. Do you feel it should be on the school system to PAY for them to have home bound instruction? Also, do you feel it should be on the school system to PAY for a special needs student to have therapy services? Personally I feel that should come out of the parents pocket NOT the school budget/tax payers money.

        I agree all children should get an education however, I do NOT feel we should be paying for a teacher to go to a students home to provide an education when they have misbehaved in school causing them to be suspended or expelled.

        There is a family that lives two houses down from me that has a child in middle school now. When he was younger he got therapy services paid for via the school budget. Now hes in Middle school for his second year and has been suspended 3 times in two years and received his education at home paid for out of the school systems budget.

        Maybe I’m the crazy one here but that seems a bit nuts to me. People can say all they want that some families in Suffolk can’t afford therapy for their special needs child or they can’t afford for a teacher to come teach them when they get suspended or expelled from school. I understand that but on the other hand you are the parent, you brought this child into this world, why is it that anyone would feel these services should come from the pockets of anyone other than themselves as the students parent? My child needed some speech therapy at 4 and 5. The school didn’t pay for that I paid for that out of my own pocket. After all, my child, my responsability.

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  • Savannah Gal

    Hopefully the kids who have need of an IEP don’t get lost in the shuffle here.

    My daughter had an IEP, that at one point, wasn’t being complied with and we ended up having to file a complaint (which was determined in our favor). There was alot of shuffling with SPS regarding the situation, compliance “specialists” started being utilized, etc. It did help, but take that way, and these kids are likely not going to be getting the education they need.

    Hey, at least the City managers will be seeing pay raises…

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