Special ed preschool services could shift to local schools

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The new law:  The Sun Journal asked the Maine Department of Education Tuesday about the new law that reduces state subsidies and returns money to districts that create regional service centers.

DOE spokeswoman Rachel Paling said in a written statement that the department is in the process of training facilitators to help districts that want to start a regional center. “It is voluntary,” she stated.

An example of services that could be regionalized under the law is providing services to children with disabilities.

“There are a number of other possibilities under the flexibility of the options available, and the department is encouraging districts to get creative in thinking about ways they may be able to achieve things together,” Paling said.

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On shifting responsibility of special ed preschoolers: 

When asked about the proposal of transferring care of 3- to 5-year-olds with special needs from the state to public school, Paling referred the Sun Journal to a statement on its web page.

It says the state Child Development Services is now responsible for administering special education services for children with disabilities from birth to 5 years under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

The CDS is in trouble.

“Flat state funding, rising costs in special education and inadequate management of resources have caused not only a multimillion dollar deficit within the CDS program, but also a shortage in state level special education services, which has impacted hundreds of Maine children who are currently not receiving the services they need,” the DOE statement reads.

DOE has developed a new model with the intent to move the provision of children with disabilities, from 3 years to school age, from the state programs to the public schools.

“Under this model, all aspects of special education services for this age group would become the responsibility of the local district,” DOE’s statement reads. That would include case management, child find, evaluation, eligibility determination, IEP development, and the provision of special education and related services.

The change, DOE says, will better address the needs of children by decreasing their transitions between programs, providing more frequent, appropriate and timely services closer to home and introducing an earlier integration into their local schools.

Maine is the only state where public schools do not assume responsibility for eligible children when they turn 3 years of age, according to DOE.

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