Special Education Commentary Off Mark

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Re “In Special Ed, Accountability Is Left Behind,” Commentary, April 17:

I am the principal of an elementary school in the Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District. Before becoming an administrator I taught handicapped children for 18 years. The commentary was not as accurate as it should have been.

Contrary to Ruben Navarrette Jr.’s statement that “students can be enrolled on the referral of a teacher,” there is a defined process that every school in the state must follow. The commentary was correct when it stated that “removal requires a consensus of a team.” The entire process is full of safeguards to ensure that the student is placed in a setting that will optimize developmental and educational growth. Once a student no longer meets the criteria established by law for placement in a special education program, the student is placed in another program.

I think you have done a great disservice to the hundreds of parents and specialists who work diligently with students with a wide range of disabilities. Special education is not a “dumping ground for kids with behavioral problems.” It is a specialized program of services provided for some very special individuals who are included in educators belief in “learning for all ... no matter what it takes.”


Brian McKernan


Mabel Paine Elementary School,

Yorba Linda


I am a retired special education teacher who has worked with children who had mild to moderate learning disabilities. Navarrette states that “students can be enrolled on the referral of a teacher.” This is not true.

In most cases, the students are mainstreamed as soon as possible and collaborative teaching takes place before the student is completely mainstreamed. Most of the teachers who enter this field have six to seven years of university training and are dedicated to meeting the students’ needs.

Special education does not pay for itself and is not self-perpetuating. Some of the funding comes from the regular school fund because the federal government does not provide the amount agreed upon to cover expenses.

There are many misperceptions about special education, but it is there to help the students achieve. It is also a team effort that involves the school and its individual teachers and administrators, the student and the parents. When the parents perceive special education as a program to help their child grow, the student usually progresses.

Joan Sorge

Dana Point


It was absolutely unbelievable that you would publish Navarrette’s commentary. Don’t you read your own editorial page? Perhaps in Texas it is true that “special education is cheap” and that it “pays for itself.” But our schools struggle because special education encroaches on the general fund.

It is not uncommon for a student with an IQ of 8 to have a per-pupil cost of $100,000. Every school district in Orange County has such program costs. You can’t get to this story through the school-house door because of confidentiality laws. But you can get to this story through the door of the district’s business office, with just a look at the budget. The current school budget cuts will fall disproportionately upon the education of our academically gifted, artistically talented and economically “at risk.”


Carol Hayes

Huntington Beach