School budgets take up most of a town’s budget, leaving little for anything else, yet it seems to me that there is something terribly wrong with the way special-needs students are handled in the public school system.

In Maine, state and local expenditures for special-needs children (ages 3 to 21) is an eye-opener. According to a state website, spending went from about $149 million (1996) on 33,055 students to about $273 million (2005) on 36,495 students. Students are supposed to gain enough to be out of a program after three years, so the number of students should be decreasing. Also, after spending years in a school system, a student can leave with only a document of attendance instead of a diploma. Federal funding is available but there is no accountability.

State and local administrators define what is an adequate program, put together the program, review the program’s effectiveness, then grade themselves. That’s not working.

To me, it would make more sense for special-needs children to attend private education establishments that could guarantee education value and have accountability, rather than public schools that just claim to have a program. If we were putting $270 million every year into private educational businesses that guaranteed results, after three years, how many special-needs students would need to continue in the program? That would leave local money available for music, art and sports in the public schools.

We need a system that can help special-needs children learn to be independent and be successful in life.

Shari Corcoran, Casco

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