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Finding the Funding for Special Education

April 22, 2002

Ruben Navarrette Jr. is incorrect that special-education programs are adequately funded ("In Special Ed, Accountability Is Left Behind," Commentary, April 17). In 1995, Congress promised to fund 40% of the cost. Until recently, it funded 8% (it is now at 17%).

In 1999, the California Legislature declared in a resolution that $1 billion annually was being transferred from regular education to special education to cover the deficit. Two years ago, Orange County lost $86 million (L.A. County lost $314 million) as a result of Congress' failure to provide 40% funding. That's $172 for every student in Orange County, or enough to hire 1,720 new teachers at a cost of $50,000 each (including salary and health benefits). As taxpayers, we send our hard-earned taxes to Washington. Washington should keep its promise and return those funds to Southern California to educate our future work force.

Ronald D. Wenkart

General Counsel

Orange County Department

of Education, Costa Mesa


Navarrette got many facts wrong. In Los Angeles, at least, students are never put in special-education classes simply on a teacher's referral. Schools must absolutely abide by the decision of a multidisciplinary team that typically includes a school psychologist, teacher, special-education teacher, the parents and an administrator. The decision is based on a comprehensive assessment by the team members. Students rarely leave special education for one reason only; they have disabilities that substantially impact their rate and degree of learning.

Diane Silberstein

Los Angeles

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