|Don't Let School System Budget Cuts Drive Special Needs Students in the Direction of Danger|
|Written by Dr. Linda F. Bluth and Steven Sorin|
|Friday, 01 August 2003 09:58|
Across our nation we will soon begin a new school year where budget cuts are no longer the exception but the norm. With the extraordinary demands of No Child Left Behind, many school systems are re-prioritizing resources in order to meet student performance expectations. The mandates of No Child Left Behind impact the provision of transportation services.
Under No Child Left Behind, families have the opportunity to transfer a child from a low-performing school to a school in good standing, pending the availability of space. Children with disabilities have the same opportunity to transfer children without disabilities. If a child is transferred to a better performing public school, including a public charter school within the district, the district must provide transportation. This includes the use of Title I funds if necessary.
Each year, school districts are confronted with the opposing pressures of increased transportation expenses and static or reduced transportation budgets. Increases in expenses are driven by many factors including inflationary pressures and the demand for more general and special needs transportation services in urban, suburban and rural districts. It is no secret that transportation for students with disabilities has been reported to cost as much as 40 percent more than for children without disabilities. Students with more complicated medical conditions and challenging behaviors require costly transportation services with no increased funding revenues. Faced with these pressures, school districts must continually seek ways to reduce transportation costs.
When looking for potential cost savings in the area of special needs transportation, it is essential not to reduce service delivery options mandated in the individualized education program (IEP), safety and specialized equipment obligations or appropriate training for drivers and bus aides. Any potential saving strategies should be well thought out in light of potential risks to students and should be discussed with risk managers prior to initiation.
The following are recommended cautions:
In dealing with inevitable budget cuts or freezes, it is essential for special education and transportation to work collaboratively. Some recommended cost saving strategies include careful planning of the location of special education classrooms and special schools, acceptable and allowable routing and bell time modifications, student travel training curriculum to facilitate independence in getting safely to and from neighborhood bus stops, and a qualified and well trained staff of drivers and aides to reduce staff turnover. It is essential that members of the IEP team work closely with transportation to explore the dos and don'ts when it comes to service delivery recommendations. There may be less costly alternatives to provide appropriate services.
In summary, today's transportation services for students with special needs may range from a student riding the regular bus with no required intervention to transporting students with specialized equipment and highly trained personnel. Planning ahead and knowing the population well in advance of the required bus ride is a first step in providing a safe and cost efficient transportation system.
|Last Updated on Wednesday, 14 October 2009 12:53|