Both have problems with transportation
State House, Boston - A new caucus met today to discuss the special education problems facing schools and the state. The SPED Caucus was formed by Representatives Barbara Lâ??Italien (D, Andover) and Tom Sannicandro (D, Ashland). Rep. Sannicandro, a freshman legislator, acknowledged that part of his inspiration for the caucus came from his colleague, Representative Cleon H. Turner, (D, Dennis), who last year formed the Regional School Caucus. â??I saw how effective Cleonâ??s become as a result of his caucus, and thought that if it can work for regional schools, it can work for Special Educationâ?, said Sannicandro.
Both Lâ??Italien and Sannicandro have SPED children. Sannicandroâ??s son, David, who has Down Syndrome, joined his father for the announcement of the caucus at yesterdayâ??s ARC of Massachusetts/Developmental Disabilities Lobby Day Wednesday. Sannicandro met with Turner several times over the past several months to â??learn from his experiences. Before the Regional School caucus, most caucuses were for show. But the approach Cleonâ??s taken has been a lot more effective. People are listening to him â?? Chairwoman Haddad, Chairman DeLeo; theyâ??ve taken noticeâ?. Lâ??Italien has been a lead advocate on â??I saw how effective Cleonâ??s become as a result of his caucus, and thought that if it can work for regional schools, it can work for Special Educationâ?, said Sannicandro.SPED issues for several years and Sannicandro, joining with her as a leader on the issue, suggested they might be more effective as a network, vis-Ã -vis the Regional School Caucus.
Early on in the first meeting of the SPED caucus, transportation was identified as a major cost to school districts. Stefanie Coxe, a spokesperson for Rep. Turner addressed the caucus on the issue of transportation. â??Weâ??ve heard from a number of our school superintendents that it costs more to transport the SPED students than all the other students in a district combined. Obviously, that amount is higher with the greater geographic area that regional schools cover,â? Coxe said. Both caucuses have discussed pursuing SPED transportation reimbursement in the budget.
Coxe also discussed the problems facing Vocational Technical schools, â??the SPED Circuit Breaker assumes that 3.5% of a schoolâ??s population is SPED students and thatâ??s how they calculate the Circuit Breaker. Problem is, Voc-techâ??s have a lot more SPED students, some over 30% of their student population.â? The regional school caucus has been exploring the problems facing regional schools since it was formed last year by Rep. Turner. He said today said that â??a change to the foundation budgetâ? needs to be made to address SPED costs to Vocational-Technical Schools. â??This again reinforces the idea we keep hearing, that Regional School Districts need to be treated as a different entity entirely in the foundation budget,â? reiterated Turner.