From a Californian perspective. I would start with putting a good portion of the monies that are budgeted for special education into the general education budget. Now I am certainly a believer in giving those students who are disabled and cannot understand the academics in regular classrooms some special help, however, in my opinion we have gone way…….. overboard. The teachers in special education are held to a very rigid standard of an Individualized Education Plan for each of the students on their caseload. Many times these students are not in their classes and they are still held responsible for assuring that the student meets the criteria stated on the I.E.P.
The language used in setting goals has been dumbed down so as to meet the parent’s approval, to avoid law suits and to “rock no boats”. In effect, the parents essentially run the school demanding that their students get “babysitting” services, good grades even when they cannot possibly earn them by insisting that the teachers practically tell the student the answers, excuse the worst kind of acting out both in the classroom and on the school grounds based on the student’s disability. The parents frequently show up to conferences with attorneys who read the fine print in the law and force the school and the teachers bend to their requests for “special attention”.
The above causes a high degree of burnout, good teachers who no longer want to be involved with special students due to the ridiculous amount of paperwork and parents who are constantly going to the school board, threatening lawsuits because their student can’t read or perform at grade level. So all those concerned parents who get so obsessive about getting their child’s needs met have in fact caused the teachers to no longer care. The child is not made to face the consequences of his behaviors and is excused from facing the reality of what he is actually capable up academically.
So, how would I change the above? Put a limit on the amount allowed in lawsuits, perhaps public schools should be exempt from lawsuits. Put a limit on how much power in general parents have and make public school, especially special education classes, a privilege not a right. With less money spent on aides walking students to the bathroom and one-on-one instruction, spend more money on hands-on skills that have a greater possibility of assuring that the disabled student could earn his own living or at least manage self-care. Will any of this likely happen. In my opinion probably not in California. The lawyers need to make a living and Lord help us if we deny them the opportunity to make more dollars. This is just a start as this topic is obviously complex.