From left: Peg Kinsell of the Statewide Parent Advocacy Network, Camy Kobylinski, a school social worker from Washington Township in Gloucester County, and NJEA Secretary Treasurer Marie Blistan, a special education teacher, prepare to host a statewide teleconference to discuss NJDOE-proposed special education regulations. Jennifer Halper, not pictured, represented Disability Rights New Jersey and co-hosted the teleconference from another location.
NJEA Secretary-Treasurer Marie Blistan was quick to thank the 929 parents, teachers, education support professionals, and special education advocates who participated in the Association’s first statewide teleconference on April 22.
Missed the teleconference? Listen to it now.
“I thank all of you for your interest in this topic,” Blistan said. “Each of your coalition members has gone to great lengths to inform, educate, and encourage our members and the community to take action in opposition to these regulations. But there’s more work to be done.”
The purpose of the conference was to educate callers on new special education regulations proposed by the New Jersey Department of Education that among other concerns, would allow special education teachers and school counselors to serve as case managers, hinder the ability of parents to adequately prepare for meetings related to their children’s education, and remove the sunset provision on class-size waivers in special education classes.
The teleconference was a collaborative effort of the Special Education Stakeholders Coalition with Blistan representing NJEA, Peg Kinsell representing the Statewide Parent Advocacy Network, and Jennifer Halper representing Disability Rights New Jersey. Washington Township Education Association President Camy Kobylinski, who is a school social worker and child study team member in her school district in Gloucester County, served as a resource person on the call.
Blistan noted that the Legislature and governor had recently created the Special Education Task Force to do a thorough review of special education regulations already in place and prepare a report of needed improvement. She insisted that the task force must be permitted to complete its work before any changes to special education code are considered by the State Board.
Throughout the call, Blistan asked callers to take three actions:
- Write to State Board of Education members telling them to stop the proposed code change adoption process and allow the new Special Education Task Force to conduct its review of current code.
- Write or call their state legislators and ask them to use their influence to stop the proposed code change and allow the new Special Education Task Force to conduct its review of current code.
- Attend the June 5 State Board of Education meeting in Trenton, where testimony on the proposed special education code changes will be heard.
Resources to assist in letter writing, calls, and testimony
While there are resources such as talking points and position papers on the issues at stake, Kinsell reminded callers that sharing their own experiences as parents, teachers, advocates, and students is more persuasive.
One parent called in to talk about the mountain of incomprehensible paper related to her child’s educational plan—and that the constriction of timelines would get in the way of her being fully prepared for meetings with school staff.
“My attic is full of paper,” she said.
Kinsell suggested she write about that.
“Compelling, personal stories from parents and their children make the real difference,” Kinsell said.