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Hart: Budget cuts won't hurt pupils

• Restructuring of special ed services was planned anyway.

Posted: April 30, 2008 1:09 a.m.
Updated: July 1, 2008 5:02 a.m.
 
The Hart district was in the process of restructuring its special education program even before the jobs of 30 resource instructional assistants were cut from the district budget, an official with the district said Tuesday.

The district governing board voted to eliminate all 30 resource instructional assistant positions in March as part of more than $10 million in cuts that were needed to meet the state's proposed budget require-ments.

The resource instructional assistants work with students in the resource program, who spend most of their school day in a regular classroom, but attend one resource class and receive extra help in other classes.

"Back before the budget was even a consideration, we started exploring different ways to serve the needs of the students in the resource program," said Vicki Engbrecht, assistant superintendent of educational services for the William S. Hart Union High School District.

Engbrecht said the district is looking at two models for the resource program. In the collaborative model, a resource teacher and a general education teacher would team up to teach a class with both resource and general education students.

"Using this model, the resource students would not have a resource class period," Engbrecht said.

The learning center model would feature a special education teacher in a learning center where students who need extra help could go to get help with any of their classes, Engbrecht said. No schools have been mandated to select a new model at this point, but two schools, Sierra Vista and Arroyo Seco junior highs, have started to restructure their programs with good results, she said.

"It's going well. They've reported increased test scores, fewer referrals for special education and more collaboration between the staff," Engbrecht said.

No matter how the program is restructured, the district intends to meet the letter of the law, Engbrecht said. In addition, the district will adhere to the Education Code requirement that 80 percent of the resource teachers be assigned an assistant.

"It's likely that, if a school continues to run their traditional program, that the resource specialist teacher will have less time with an assistant, but will still have the time that the Ed Code requires," she said. "The Ed Code does not mandate the amount of time the instructional assistant spends with the resource teacher. It doesn't have to be a full day, or even a certain number of hours or minutes."

There will be fewer instructional assistant positions in the district next year, so the goal is to continue to provide resource students with the added support they need to meet the requirements of their Individualized Education Programs, Engbrecht said.

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