Carroll parents, educators plan forum on special education

October 28, 1997|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,SUN STAFF

Call it a primer on special education in Carroll County.

An advisory committee of parents and educators is inviting the public to a forum at 7: 30 p.m. today to learn the hows and whys of the services for students with special needs.

"We'd like people to come and spend an hour and a half with us to see where special education is in Carroll County and where it's going," said Harry Fogle, supervisor of special education.

Several elected officials in local and state government have been invited to the event, a joint effort of school officials and parent support and advocacy groups. Those groups are represented on the Special Education Advisory Committee to the school system.

The committee decided last school year to plan a night to let the community know more about special education.

"The audience we would really like to see is the teachers and parents of nondisabled students, as well as the teachers and parents of students with disabilities," Fogle said. "What is being recommended for a child with special needs is often good instruction for most children."

"I would like to see parents have the opportunity to network with other parents and to learn about the different groups within the community that are able to provide resources and support," said Becky Laatsch of New Windsor, a parent member of the committee and mother of a child at Winfield Elementary School. She is also vice president of Parents Reaching Out, a support and advocacy group for families of children with disabilities.

Laatsch said she hopes there will be an opportunity for parents to make schools aware of their concerns.

Of Carroll's 26,800 students, 3,772 receive special education services such as speech therapy, visual modifications for children who are in regular classrooms all day and placement in private residential schools because of severe disabilities.

The $13.3 million spent on salaries and other expenses to serve those students is the third-largest category in the $149 million school budget, behind salaries for all other employees, $65.4 million, and fringe benefits, $22.3 million.

Special education is more expensive per child, on average, than regular education. Based on a state formula, the average per-pupil cost for Carroll special-needs students is about $11,500, compared with an average overall per-pupil cost of $5,828.

"Often you'll hear from the parents that all this money is going to special education" and that it isn't fair to shortchange the needs of other children, Fogle said.

"Whatever a child needs is fair for that child," Fogle said.

Superintendent Brian Lockard said he hopes the forum will let people know that it isn't just a matter of obeying the law requiring the services.

Some of the services are "prescribed by law, and some [are] just right to do for the person," Lockard said.

He said parents of students in special education can benefit from the forum, because it will give them a broader picture of other services offered to children with different disabilities.

Pub Date: 10/28/97

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