P.O. Box 909 ● Trenton, NJ 08605-0909 ● Phone: 609.695.7600 ● Fax: 609.695.0413 ● Web: www.njsba.org/PI
"Financing Public Education in New Jersey"
Edwina M. Lee, Executive Director
New Jersey's schools serve more than 230,000 special education students. They comprise 16 percent of the children we serve.
In 1911, New Jersey became the first state to require special education classes in the public schools. This occurred more than six decades before Congress passed the first federal special education act.
New Jersey has served its special education children well. But as we will see today, the system could use improvement.
Over the next few months, the Legislature is expected to consider a new school funding formula. A crucial issue will be special education.
To adequately address this issue, we need data, much of which has never been collected and analyzed. That's why the New Jersey School Boards Association invested in research to develop baseline information on financing and delivering special education, as well as best practices.
Our researchers spent a year collecting and analyzing data from the state and federal governments. They surveyed special education directors in more than half of the state's school districts, and they made site visits to more than 34 districts.
The result was "Financing Special Education in New Jersey." This report identifies ways to maintain and improve special education, while controlling costs. I'd like to outline some of the findings and recommendations:
New Jersey has the nation's highest percentage of special education students in separate settings. The study recommends that the state government and local school districts invest in the development of more in-district programs and services for seriously disabled students.
There will always be a need for specialized schools. However, for students' social and educational benefit, more students need to be brought back to programs in their home districts.
These are only a handful of the findings and recommendations that we will be sharing with state leaders.
Finding best practices in our schools is another critical element of our project. The report identified 24 exemplary programs. Several Special Education directors of these exemplary programs have joined us today.
Also with us are Dr. Mari Molenaar and Michael Luciano, the principal researchers. They will describe, in more detail, what their study found and how they arrived at its recommendations.
NJSBA is proud to sponsor one of the most comprehensive reports on special education ever conducted in our state. This study will provide vital information to local school districts, the state Department of Education and the state Legislature as we work to improve the funding and delivery of general and special education.
The New Jersey School Boards Association, a federation of district boards of education, advocates the interests of school districts, trains local school board members, and provides resources for the advancement of public education.