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Coalition testifies before joint committee on special ed regs

Published on Monday, June 17, 2013

BREAKING:  Commissioner Cerf has rescheduled a special meeting of the State Board of Education originally set for Wednesday, June 19 to Friday, June 21, to consider readoption of the special education regulations without amendments.  Be sure to check back for details on the outcome of that special meeting.  View a copy of the state board’s agenda. 

 Special Ed Teleconference
In an ongoing effort to halt the proposed changes to special education regulations until the Special Education Task Force had completed its work, the coalition hosted a statewide teleconference on April 22. Nearly 1,000 concerned educators, advocates, and parents participated. Pictured from left are 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.

Members of the Special Education Stakeholders Coalition testified before the Joint Committee on Public Schools on Tuesday, June 11, to express concerns with the rapid pace at which the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) was adopting questionable revisions to special education regulations.

Marie Blistan, chair of the coalition, began testimony on behalf of the coalition by giving an overview of the coalition’s positions with regard to those proposed changes found in New Jersey Administrative Code (NJAC) 6A:14: Special Education.

“We are here today because we have exhausted the normal avenues that give 'voice' to the advocates who champion and protect our most vulnerable of students, our children who receive special education services,” she said.

In addition to NJEA, coalition members include the Statewide Parent Advocacy Network (SPAN), Disability Rights New Jersey, the New Jersey Association of Learning Consultants, and the Education Law Center.

Blistan cataloged the steps the coalition had taken to encourage the NJDOE to rescind the proposed changes and allow the recently created Special Education Task Force to complete a review of special education regulations prior to department action. The state Legislature, with Gov. Chris Christie’s signature, had created the task force.

Blistan discussed meetings with NJEA DOE representatives, testimony before the State Board of Education, meetings with various legislators, and a request to the Governor to slow the process, all in an effort to permit the task force to do its work.

Blistan was not the only one to testify. Maureen Mahon, President of NJ Association of Learning Consultants, spoke with passion regarding the role of the case manager and other child study team members in New Jersey’s public schools.

Peg Kinsell of SPAN and Jennifer Halper of Disability Rights N.J., the negative impact the proposed regulations will have on families as they advocate for their children.

Ruth Lowenkron of the Education Law Center identified specific department proposals to revise NJAC 6Q:14 and the negative impact each will have on students with special needs. 

Sen. Ronald Rice, D-Essex, who co-chairs the Joint Committee on the Public Schools, said he would send a letter to the NJDOE requesting withdraw of the proposed changes and ask that the department take no further action until the conclusion of the work of the Special Education Task Force and consideration of their recommendations.

“We are grateful that Senator Rice and his committee members took the time to listen and pledged to request that the DOE stop the adoption process and allow the newly created Special Education Task Force to do its job of a full review of Code,” Blistan said.

The Joint Committee on the Public Schools is composed of members of the New Jersey Senate and General Assembly. Its 14 members are appointed to the committee by the Senate President and the Speaker of the Assembly. Both major parties are represented on the committee. Asw. Connie Wagner, D- Bergen, co-chairs the committee with Sen. Rice.

What you can do

NJEA, along with other leaders from the Coalition testified at the Joint Committee on Public Education on Tuesday, June 11 to put the proposed regulations on hold. NJEA is urging members to continue to TAKE ACTION in the following ways:

Take Action

  1. Use the talking points to call your Senate and Assembly members and ask them to co-sponsor A-3986 (Benson, Diegnan, O’Donnell). This legislation would limit the role of case managers to child study team members (and speech language specialists when they act as members of the child study team).

SAMPLE SCRIPT

Hello, my name is ___________from ____________. I am calling to ask you to co-sponsor A-3986. This legislation would ensure that properly trained child study team members continue to manage special education cases. It will allow special education teachers and counselors to continue to serve their students without distraction. This will benefit all students and the school community as a whole. I hope I can count on your support. Thank you.

2. Contact Governor Christie at 609-292-6000 or http://www.state.nj.us/governor/contact/ and let him know that you disagree with the proposed regulations. Ask him to withdraw them.

3. Write letters to editors of local and regional newspapers.

Use these talking points, and remember, your continuous efforts are making a difference! The Department of Education has an obligation to ensure that each proposed regulatory change has a positive impact on student instruction and achievement. This fight is crucial to the rights of our special education students in New Jersey.

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