Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Part II: Please Take the Time to Comment on Michigan's Proposed Special Education Rules

If you read yesterday's post,

you know that major changes are being proposed by the Michigan Department of Education to the rules that guide special education in Michigan.

According to Marcie Lipsitt:

The MI Dept. of Ed states that the rule revisions will bring our verbiage in line with the federal law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”). This is another way of misleading parents, teachers and concerned citizens.  Eliminating state-imposed rules is not done to bring rules in line with federal law. This is done to bring down costs and reduce the number of children found eligible, while reducing necessary specialized instruction...
Contrary to MI DOE’s assertion, these proposed revisions have nothing to do with “improving student outcomes.”  Rather, they will allow Michigan, ISDs and LEAs to balance their budgets on the backs of students with disabilities. Eliminating the state-imposed special education rules that govern teacher caseloads, special education programs, program sizes and student age spans will not improve outcomes. The most recent data out of the MI Dept. of Ed, Annual Performance Review (February 2014) documents that only 52-percent of students with IEPs graduated high school with a diploma. Michigan needs to turn every possible child into a productive taxpayer. Gutting our special education rules is not the answer and 188,000 students will have no reason to stay home from school in September 2014. Do we really want to send special education and students with disabilities back to the days of being unwelcome guests in our public schools? The answer is a resounding NO. 
The time to comment is short. Comments are only being accepted until March 13th at 5 p.m.!

Below, you will find information about how to comment, and what you might want to say. Since the initial announcement was made, they have added ways to comment via an online form and via email (still no fax)--so I would say that the pressure is working. Keep it up!

Links with Background Information

If you're like me, you are not a special education expert, so here is some more information.

Proposed Rule Changes, from MDE, with strikethroughs and bold text to show the changes.

MDE's Summary of Rule Changes
(Remember: the current rule changes are being described--disingenuously--as minor changes. Really, they're major!)

Michigan Protection and Advocacy's comments on the rules

What the Special Education Rule Changes Will Mean for Kids
(I took this from a parent listserve--I'm not sure who wrote it--but it has very clear examples of the effects of various changes. And did you know that if the autism rule changes take effect, Michigan will have the most restrictive rules in the nation--and they won't be using accepted medical diagnostic criteria either.)

How to Comment


1. Mail:
Public Comment, Office of Special Education
Michigan Department of Education
P.O. Box 30008
Lansing, MI 48909

2. Online submissions form: http://ose.marse-public-comment.sgizmo.com/s3/
(You would think this would be the easiest way to comment, but it asks you to comment on each specific rule, so--kind of a pain! However, if you want to use it, I have a handy list down below.)

3. Email (recently added under pressure--a small victory): MDE-OSE-EIS-Public-Comment@michigan.gov
Note that the name of the person making the comment must be included in the email.

4. Go to one of the two public hearings being held on Monday, March 10th:
1:00 p.m.–3:00 p.m.
Detroit School of Arts, 123 Selden Street, Detroit, Michigan 48201
4:00 p.m.–6:00 p.m.
Lansing Community College West Campus, 5708 Cornerstone Drive, Lansing, Michigan 48917

There is also a Change.Org petition, which you can sign here. The petition asks Governor Snyder to withdraw the changes to MARSE (the Michigan special education rules) immediately.

What to Say About the Special Education Rules 


You have a few options. One option is to submit a general statement of opposition, and/or ask them to withdraw the rules entirely. Another option is to focus on a few of the rule changes that concern you most. Alternatively, respond to the entire list of rules changes.

Marcie Lipsitt has allowed me to share a detailed, rule-by-rule, response that I found very helpful and have pasted in below.

R, 340,1701 a(c)(v): I oppose removing the phrase "or court decision" from the scope of the complaint. Court decisions are used to provide guidance on students rights under the IDEA and a denial of FAPE. 

R 340.1702- 
1. I oppose defining a student as a student with a disability until completing the high school graduation requirements to earn a diploma. This will allow districts to push students through in 4 years and negate the availability of a 5th and 6th year of high school. 
2. I oppose defining parents as "qualified professionals." IDEA recognizes parents as valued members of the IEP team. This rule could be interpreted to exclude parents that lack professional qualifications. This does not align with 300.306.

R 340.1706 Emotional Impairment: I oppose removal of the MET. This will reduce the depth and breadth of of the evaluation conducted to determine a student's eligibility. Especially when a Cognitive and Achievement battery are critical to rule out a learning disability and to understand what can be contributing to a student's emotional and behavioral dysregulation. 

R 340.1707 Hearing Impairment: I oppose removal of the MET. This will reduce the depth and breadth of of the evaluation conducted to determine a student's eligibility. 

R 340.1708 Visual Impairment: I oppose removal of the MET. This will reduce the depth and breadth of of the evaluation conducted to determine a student's eligibility. 

R 340.1709 Physical Health Impairment: I oppose removal of the MET. This will reduce the depth and breadth of of the evaluation conducted to determine a student's eligibility. 

R 340.1709a Other Health Impairment: 

1. I oppose removal of the MET. This will reduce the depth and breadth of of the evaluation conducted to determine a student's eligibility. Especially when a Cognitive and Achievement battery are critical to rule out or rule in comorbid learning deficits in written expression and math due to the adverse impact of ADHD.

2. I oppose allowing a Physician's Assistant to evaluate for an Other Health Impairment. PA's do not have the training necessary to evaluate for the conditions eligible under OHI. 

R. 340.1710 Speech-Language: 
1. I oppose removing the MET.
2. I oppose removing the language that could suggest that a student cannot receive a Speech service without eligibility. The word "may" leaves this "service" open to interpretation. 

R 340.1711 Early Childhood Developmental Delay: I oppose removing the MET. This will reduce the depth and breadth of the evaluation conducted to determine the student's eligibility.

R 340.1713 Specific Learning Disability: I oppose removing the MET. This will reduce the depth and breadth of the evaluation conducted to determine the student's eligibility.

R 340.1714 Severely-Multiply Impaired: I oppose removing the MET. This will reduce the depth and breadth of the evaluation conducted to determine the student's eligibility.

R 340.1715 ASD: 
I am outraged by the MDE's description of the proposed changes to the ASD eligibility. 

1. You have proposed removing "such as" and changing it to "including" for "eye-to-eye gaze, facial expression, body posture, and social interaction." This will require students to have "all" of these impairments instead of "such as." This is an insidious change in verbiage that will dramatically reduce the number of children eligible. Even now it is too subjective when social workers, speech and language clinicians and teachers decide if a student can or can't make eye contact. 
2. I oppose removing the MET as this will reduce the depth and breadth of the evaluation used to determine eligibility. 

R 340.1716 Traumatic Brain Injury: 
1. I do not support removal of the MET as this will reduce the scope of the depth and breadth of the evaluation.
2. I do not support allowing a Physician's Assistant to evaluate for eligibility. 

R 340.1716 Deaf-Blindness
1. I do not support removal of the MET as this will reduce the scope of the depth and breadth of the evaluation conducted to determine a student's eligibility.
2. I oppose allowing a Physician's Assistant to evaluate for eligibility. This is inconsistent with those allowed to evaluate for a Hearing Impairment and a Visual Impairment. This short changes those students with concomitant deaf-blindness

R. 340.1721: I oppose as I am completely opposed to the revisions in R 340.1721b. The verbiage is confusing and can be misinterpreted. 

R 340.1721a: I oppose as the verbiage is confusing and will be misinterpreted by too many school districts 

R 340.1721b (1): I support none of these proposed revisions with the exception of firmly establishing the 30 school days to evaluate and have an IEP team meeting. I strongly oppose excluding the IEP team from the 30 school days and requiring that parents sign the consent for special education prior to an IEP team meeting. This is virtually requiring parents to consent blindly to the contents of an IEP when they are valued members of the IEP team. 

R 340.1721e: I oppose removal of the short term objectives. Parents fought this removal hard in 2008 and oppose it for the same reason in 2014. Short term objectives are the only way to measure a student's progress on an annual goal. 

R 340.1722: I oppose this revision as it will be open to interpretation and misunderstanding between districts and parents. This could lead to parents being forced to file more written complaints and due process hearings. 

R. 340.1724: I oppose as I am opposed to the state superintendent's dictatorial authority due to Gov Engler's 1996 executive orders. 

R 340.1724: I oppose requiring school districts to notify the MDE when a parent files a civil suit following an ALJ's decision in a Due Process

R 340.1724: I oppose giving school districts additional time to pay their share of the cost of a Due Process hearing. 

R 340.1832 (d): I strongly oppose giving school districts and ISDs permission to determine special ed staffing annually. MI districts and ISDs will balance their budget on the backs of students with disabilities.


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2 comments:

  1. The difficulty with having PA's is that they are dependent practitioners. You also introduce the practice of medicine as well as the business of medicine into schools, which is a huge problem.

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    1. The problem with a neurological deficit like dyslexia is that it is a medical condition that demands proper diagnosis, but then the therapy is educational. Neither the medical/insurance sector nor the educational sector want to step up and help these often very bright students who need explicit instruction to overcome the invisible, low-level glitch in their wiring that makes interacting with printed language (decoding it, producing it) very challenging. Making a blank edict that introducing medicine into schools "is a huge problem" makes no sense. The fact is that ALL students are eligible for a free and fair education, not just the ones without a medical diagnosis that impacts their learning.

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