County to cut back on special education

The Office of Education will slash 64 special education positions and cut nearly $5 million from the program in the coming year, following the release of a task force report focused on improving cost effectiveness.

The cuts are part of an overhaul of the county's method of billing area school districts for providing special education services, and come after the Office of Education was forced to tap into its reserves in March and pay $1 million to local districts after miscalculating special education costs. The task force was formed shortly after a series of billing errors came to light.

Local districts contract with the Office of Education to provide special education classes to studentswho cannot be served in mainstream classes. Under the new system, more responsibility will be shifted to local districts in hopes of holding down costs.

Exactly how many of the 64 staff positions will be transferred to other districts isn't clear, officials said. “I am very concerned that my children, and all the children, aren't getting the services they need to obtain an appropriate education,” said Sheryl Munoz-Bergman, a Redwood City resident whose two sons attend county-run special education classes.

County teachers are already stretched thin with too few resources in their classrooms. Munoz-Bergman said.

Teachers union officials said the cuts disproportionately affect those who deal with students on a daily basis — including 22 teachers and 38 paraprofessionals — while less than one full-time position will be cut at the administrative level. The secretarial and custodial staff will lose three and one-half full-time positions.

“Just to keep cutting, keep cutting, keep cutting means the quality isn't going to be there,” said Tina Dress, president of the San Mateo County Educators Association.

The latest reductions also raise classroom safety concerns, coming, as they do, on the heels of 27 staff cuts last year, Dress said.

A total of 20 special education classes will be dropped from the county's schedule, and the Loma Chica site in San Bruno will be closed. The Office of Education also plans to re-evaluate, and possibly eliminate, a second summer school session and limit the number of one-to-one aides. The overall budget will be trimmed from about $32 million to $27 million, according to Office of Education Superintendent Jean Holbrook.

“We based our staffing projections on the numbers of students that districts told us they were going to send us,” Holbrook said.

ecarpenter@examiner.com

Bay Area NewsLocal

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Former Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs spoke to San Francisco’s new Guaranteed Income Advisory Group on April 16. (Courtesy SFGOV)
City launches task force to explore Universal Basic Income programs

San Francisco on Friday launched a guaranteed income task force that could… Continue reading

Muni’s K-Ingleside line will return six months earlier than previously announced. <ins>(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)</ins>
K-Ingleside train to return on May 15

Announcement comes on the heels of pressure from Supervisor Myrna Melgar

Demonstrators march from Mission High School towards the San Francisco Police station on Valencia Street. (Jordi Molina/ Special to the S.F. Examiner)
Vigil, march honors those killed by police

Deaths of Daunte Wright, Roger Allen and others prompt renewed calls for defunding

A Recology employee stands at the comapany’s recycling facility on Pier 96 in 2016. (Jessica Christian/2016 S.F. Examiner)
Nuru scandal: Feds charge second former Recology executive with bribery

A second former Recology executive is facing charges for allegedly bribing ex-Public… Continue reading

Skier Andy Padlo crosses a frozen Spicer Reservoir. (Courtesy photo)
Stormy weather tests skiers’ mettle on Dardanelle traverse

Overcoming challenges makes outings more rewarding

Most Read