*Edited* Public Comment presented by Angel Garcia on behalf of the Coalition for Students with Disabilities, to the SCUSD Board of Education re: item: 9.1 Public Hearing and Approval of 2019-20 Adopted Budget Revision (Rose Ramos) / 9.1 PowerPoint
There has been a lot of talk recently about the class-action special education lawsuit that was filed on behalf of the Black Parallel School Board. Since the district tends to spend more *on legal* than the community hopes they would, and we are talking budget, we would like to talk about the potential impact of this lawsuit.
The lawsuit calls for systemic changes for students with disabilities. We wholehearted agree the special education system needs an overhaul. But, even with the intense legal pressure that this lawsuit is bringing, there must be buy-in across the district for any changes to work. This means the district must effectively invest in systemic changes and that their needs to be buy in for all of the the labor partners. When special education was audited, the Council of the Great City Schools auditors were perplexed by the power that the Sacramento City Teachers Association (SCTA) had in delaying development of the Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS). They had said they have never seen in a large urban district, teachers union delay the implementation of MTSS. In our years as parents and as CAC members advocating in SCUSD, we have watched as SCTA used their power to block other several critical initiatives from moving forward. They have insisted through the years that these student learning initiatives are bargaining issues.
1. The right for students with disabilities to be “included” was treated as a bargaining issue for many years. Appendix D, entitled “Special Education Student Inclusion” – was part of the teachers’ contract for over 20 years dating back to 1993, despite containing illegal and discriminatory language violating federal and state laws. Finally, in 2017 the appendix was removed after CAC parents advocated for years and our school board and district staff started keeping this issue at the forefront. Despite, this, the district is healing from decades of bias towards special education students. (More info: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1-KgfS4OaY_SrF-TCnaCiahPrO_F0LJS6/view?usp=sharing)
2. Additionally, as a result of a grievance being filed related to Appendix D, an initiative that the district was trying to expand called “Inclusive Practices”, was suddenly halted. Inclusive Practices is a special and general education co-teaching partnership that was designed to include more students in general education. This initiative started in approx. 2010 but has not been able to expand as it had been promised to the community. Sadly, instead of adding more inclusive classes, the district continues to add special day classes. The district now spends over 12 million dollars busing students to these classes. The district also spends tens of millions on sending students to segregated, special nonpublic schools. Page 60 of the Special Education Audit says, related to Inclusive Practices, “The district understands that the Tentative Agreement with SCTA precludes inclusive- practice schools initiative from being expanded until the SCTA’s concerns are addressed. Unfortunately, there does not seem to be a clear path for identifying issues and how they could be resolved to SCTA’s satisfaction.” (More info: https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED588388.pdf)
3. Moreover, the district had attempted to start a new social justice framework called SPARK which encompassed social and emotional learning, PBIS, and restorative practices initiatives… However, due to intense push back from SCTA, an agreement between SCTA and the District was signed in Sept. 2016 to halt SPARK, stating: “… no aspect of the initiative will be implemented and unless mutually agreed by both parties or until the negotiation process has exhausted and legal impasse is reached.” (Note: This never happened!) (More info: https://drive.google.com/file/d/16oIXuHVAuepM5Cf8zEFdc_de8tPlKu1O/view?usp=sharing)
4. Lastly, we know of a MOU with SCTA and district that prevents the district from establishing district-wide assessment process to monitor student progress outside of the negotiation process. To our knowledge, nothing has been resolved. When academic process is not monitored regularly, students slip through the cracks. With a district that has very low academic achievement, this is hampering students from receiving interventions in a timely manner. (More info: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1UWGdYir74Y0WEaTrCldFoTrTmNtSejWC/view?usp=sharing)
Conclusion: Our kids should not be used as bargaining chips. These are not HR issues; they are student issues. This is vital because these issues make SCUSD a breeding ground for bullying, segregation and disciplinary problems. Our students deserve better than this. They deserve a safe and welcoming learning environment. In our Coalition and as former CAC members, we have been advocating for years about these issues.