LAUSD Has a Special Education Problem 2017-09-15T20:07:39+00:00

LAUSD has a Special Education Problem

The Los Angeles Unified School District is the second largest school district in the nation, and oversees the care and education of over 88,000 students with special needs. They're responsible for ensuring their safe transportation to and from school, and they're responsible for providing a quality of education that helps students achieve self-sufficiency and success in school and the community.

What we have seen instead are detrimental cuts and changes in special education that have put students at risk of harm, shortchanging them out of a quality education, and shortchanging parents who put their trust in the district. Join us in demanding that the district do the right thing and stop cutting corners.

LAUSD has a Special Education Problem

The Los Angeles Unified School District is the second largest school district in the nation, and oversees the care and education of over 88,000 students with special needs. They're responsible for ensuring their safe transportation to and from school, and they're responsible for providing a quality of education that helps students achieve self-sufficiency and success in school and the community.

What we have seen instead are detrimental cuts and changes in special education that have put students at risk of harm, shortchanging them out of a quality education, and shortchanging parents who put their trust in the district. Join us in demanding that the district do the right thing and stop cutting corners.

LAUSD has a Special Education Problem

The Los Angeles Unified School District is the second largest school district in the nation, and oversees the care and education of over 88,000 students with special needs. They're responsible for ensuring their safe transportation to and from school, and they're responsible for providing a quality of education that helps students achieve self-sufficiency and success in school and the community.

What we have seen instead are detrimental cuts and changes in special education that have put students at risk of harm, shortchanging them out of a quality education, and shortchanging parents who put their trust in the district.

Join us in demanding that the district do the right thing and stop cutting corners.

It’s about putting kids first, right?

On July 6, 2017, Members of the LAUSD School Board resolved that LAUSD is a District that “puts kids first.” You won’t find a single Special Education Assistant who’d disagree. Our desire to improve the lives of children with special needs is why many of us chose to work in this field.
The district must recognize that the work we do to serve students is intimately tied to the quality of education. When there are cuts to support staff and when student services are complicated by uninformed budgetary decisions, it doesn’t just affect the employee, it also affects the students. This is why we are voicing our concerns and want you to join SEIU Local 99—our union of Special Education Assistants and other education workers—in keeping LAUSD accountable to their commitment to students and parents.

Who we are

We are a group of concerned Special Education Assistants at LAUSD and members of SEIU Local 99—the union of education workers representing over 30,000 classified school employees at LAUSD, of which 7,289 are Special Education Assistants or Trainees. As a union, we advocate for quality schools for all children and fight for better lives for education workers and their families.

Outsourcing services and the consistency problem

There is a consistency problem in many special education classrooms across the District. LAUSD currently contracts with outside agencies to provide Behavior Intervention Implementation (BII) Specialists in the classroom. BII Specialists implement the behavior support plan in a student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP), and the scope of their interaction with students is limited to just that.

BII Specialists don’t assist with bus transportation, supervise on the playground, or toileting. That’s what Special Education Assistants do. But they also do a lot more. Special Education Assistants help carry out lessons. They engage with students, establish a trusting relationship and help build their confidence—something absolutely vital to teaching students with special needs. But, because the additional presence of BII Specialists disrupts the student-to-staff ratio in the classroom, Special Education Assistants are commonly rotated around different classrooms. Confusion and emotional distress for the student is the result.

Children with special needs, need the kind of consistency that only someone who has spent enough time getting to know them can provide. Whether at home or in the classroom, it is consistency and a predictable environment that enables them to thrive. In fact, it is this kind of environment where they do most of their learning. We see firsthand the difficulty in providing consistency for a student when you have multiple personnel—rotating Special Education Assistants and a BII Specialist—with two different job responsibilities around that one student. Disrupting a routine, or not ever establishing one often leads to behavioral problems, which further disrupts the learning process and progress on the student’s IEP.

The contracting out of BII services at LAUSD is also costly. The District admitted that themselves with estimates that total in the tens of millions of dollars. Ending the outsourcing of BIIs is not only the fiscally responsible thing to do, but is a first step toward improving the efficiency of service to students. LAUSD already has a ready workforce of 7,289 experienced special education paraprofessionals—with strong ties to the LAUSD community—already working directly with students, and willing and able to do BII work.
With additional training and certification, current Special Education Assistants can do BII work while still acting as assistants in the classroom. We are calling on LAUSD to agree to our proposal to:

  • Establish a specially designed BII training program for Special Education Assistants interested in providing BII services.
  • Recruit and retain experienced special education professionals by offering a 5.5% salary differential to Special Education Assistants who attain BII certification and provide BII services as a result.
  • Phase out outside BII positions and invest the money saved into improving services that directly benefit students.

Reduction in student services

The fact is, a reduction in workforce or hours is a reduction in service to students. On August 4, 2017, LAUSD announced they would be reducing the work hours of 617 Special Education Assistants by one hour and they did so without assessing the impact on educational outcomes and risks to student health and safety. They also made this announcement without consulting Special Education Assistants and Teachers—the people who work directly with students every school day and who know how students would be affected. 

Students with special needs are among the most vulnerable students at LAUSD. A one hour reduction may not sound like much, but consider what this means for:

  • Classroom safety. Children with certain disabilities are prone to chronic seizures, which can result in a loss of consciousness, convulsions or other involuntary movements. In that is a risk of biting their tongue or even dislocating bones. Seizures happen unexpectedly and when they do happen, the difference between a child getting injured and getting through it safely is the presence of a Special Education Assistant trained to mitigate risk of injury.
    Some students are also prone to behavioral issues that—without an assistant to help a teacher manage—can lead to injury to the student or other students. With the proposed cuts, Special Education classes would be losing five hours a week of vital assistance and supervision. As the people responsible for the care of students in school, we are not okay compromising the safety of students to save the District what amounts to an insignificant amount of money.
  • Education. We know that students with special needs learn differently and at a different pace than students without special needs. This means every minute of instruction time counts, especially one-on-one instruction. An individual Special Education Assistant might work with anywhere from 15 to 60 students a day depending on whether they’re assigned to one classroom or rotated through several. One hour may not seem like a lot, but it adds up to 185 hours (185 school days in the 2016-2017 calendar) of lost time for 15 to 60 students to learn life skills, build confidence and gain self-sufficiency.
  • Transportation safety. As some students with certain disabilities are prone to acting out due to emotional distress and fear, assistants are needed on buses to supervise behavior and maintain a safe environment for all passengers, including the bus driver. Assistants also help students with boarding and getting off the bus. Bus drivers need to be able to focus on driving and driving safely. When there is no assistant on board, anything can happen. As it is now, not every school bus that brings students with special needs from home to school and back has a Special Education Assistant on board. Unless the District reduces Special Education class hours accordingly, a reduction in hours will mean more school buses with no assistant on board and an increasingly dangerous environment.
Aside from causing further hardship for Special Education Assistants who already struggle to make ends meet, LAUSD’s unilateral move to reduce hours is a reduction in service to students. It is our belief that student achievement will be negatively affected and their health and safety put at risk as a direct result of these cuts.

We are demanding the district immediately and permanently rescind their stated intention to reduce hours to Special Education Assistants and work with us to develop and implement new programs and training to improve student services.

Speak-up for children with special needs

As a community of people and organizations that care about the well-being of children with special needs, we can speak out in one voice to ensure parents and students have the services and support they need to succeed. Fill out this form to let us know you care about the quality of special education at LAUSD, care about students with special needs, and you’re willing to join us to improve student services.

Tell us a little about yourself (check all that apply)
I am a parent with a special needs childI am a professional or volunteer advocate for children with special needsI am a professional or volunteer who works directly with children with special needsI'm none of the above, just a concerned citizen

Is your child a student at LAUSD?
YesNo

What advocacy organization are you with?

What organization do you work/volunteer for? (if school, enter school name instead of district)

In what capacity do you work with children with special needs? (e.g. teacher, doctor, etc.)

Please do not leave this page until you see a confirmation that the message was sent.

Speak-up for children with special needs

As a community of people and organizations that care about the well-being of children with special needs, we can speak out in one voice to ensure parents and students have the services and support they need to succeed. Fill out this form to let us know you care about the quality of special education at LAUSD, care about students with special needs, and you’re willing to join us to improve student services.

Tell us a little about yourself (check all that apply)
I am a parent with a special needs childI am a professional or volunteer advocate for children with special needsI am a professional or volunteer who works directly with children with special needsI'm none of the above, just a concerned citizen

Is your child a student at LAUSD?
YesNo

What advocacy organization are you with?

What organization do you work/volunteer for? (if school, enter school name instead of district)

In what capacity do you work with children with special needs? (e.g. teacher, doctor, etc.)

Please do not leave this page until you see a confirmation that the message was sent.