Oregon is failing its students needing special education. Only a third of Oregon children eligible for special education through early intervention/early childhood special education programs "received an adequate level of services," according to a .
The Oregon Department of Education says it agrees with many of the recommendations of the state audit to attempt to correct that problem and more...but. And it's a tragic but. Oregon may not have easy access to the money or the resources to make things right.
"ODE also disagrees with or only partially agrees with some of the recommendations largely due to the impact on public education and the state’s budget by the COVID-19 pandemic," Colt Gill, director of the Oregon Department of Education wrote in response to the audit.
Some of that problem will be corrected by new money coming into the state education system. Legislators approved the Student Success Act in 2019. That was expected -- at least when it was passed -- to bring $1 billion a year in new money for schools. The problem is the number of students who need access to special education is anticipated to outpace even the portion of increased funding that will be directed to special education.
Special education students in rural Oregon and minority students can suffer the most. Rural school districts have to fight for employees with bigger districts. They don't have the same access to other resources that there are in urban areas. There are fewer specialists and doctors to help the children and the districts succeed. One proposed solution is to have the state do a better job of coordinating resources based on need.
The Department of Education disagreed with that recommendation saying, it has no statutory authority to do so. Well, if that's the issue, ask for the authority from the Legislature. Don't just say no.
As the audit states, federal law says "all students experiencing disabilities have the right to receive a free, appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment." Auditors identified Texas and Delaware as models for some changes Oregon should make to better achieve that goal. Why can't Oregon be the model?