Members, parents decry proposed special education regulation changes

Published on Thursday, March 7, 2013

 Marie Blistan testifies before the State Board of Education
NJEA Secretary-Treasurer Marie Blistan testifies before the State Board of Education at the March 6 meeting. Gallery Gallery
Nearly 100 parents, educators, and education activists packed the March 6 State Board of Education meeting yesterday to voice their concerns about the changes to proposed special education regulations.   

The Department of Education proposed the changes at the recommendation of the governor’s Education Evaluation Task Force.

NJEA Secretary-Treasurer Marie Blistan, herself a 30-year classroom teacher working with special education students, spoke passionately about the special education regulations and the unintended consequences these changes would pose for the special education student population. Read her testimony

“These proposed changes have long-term consequences that I’m sure you don’t intend,” Blistan said.  “For example, designating teachers and any other licensed staff members to serve as case manager will result in a marked decrease in staff productivity and be an unnecessary burden on already overwhelmed school employees.”

Blistan was among a dozen or more NJEA members—some of whom were parents of special education students themselves—who urged the Board to take their time to really understand the impact of the proposed regulations. 

“My nine year-old son is a deaf and legally blind mainstreamed student,” said Heather Flaim, NJEA member and a Hammonton High School physical education teacher.  “The state needs to recognize the case manager is not an unnecessary burden that the district needs to be freed from; rather, they are the most important link for communication amongst the team members to service the child successfully.”

This was not the only item on the agenda that day.  State Board of Education members took testimony and public input on other proposed regulations dealing with topics such as educational facilities and professional licensure and standards.   

The board also introduced the new regulations that will detail what teacher evaluation would look like if the Department of Education’s proposed plans are adopted.  NJEA is studying these proposals and will keep members informed.   Recent news coverage outlined NJEA’s initial concerns.

None of the proposed regulation changes to special education have been adopted at this time. For a regulation to be adopted, it must follow the administrative code process and must proceed through multiple steps before being adopted.  The special education regulations were at the second discussion level, which is the first time the public was allowed to testify. 

Blistan summarized the concerns echoed by the parents and educators in attendance. “We keep hearing about this state’s commitment to ensure a quality educational opportunity for all of New Jersey’s public school students,” she said.  “Please don’t allow anything to be put into place that will shortchange one of our most vulnerable groups of these students.”

NJEA members are urged to continue writing letters to the state board of education to share their concerns about these proposed regulations and the impact on students and educators.

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