Over the years students at Turlock Unified School District have been using special education services provided by the Stanislaus County Office of Education because the district didn’t have enough students to create their own program.
Well now TUSD has enough students who need special education services to create their own program and in the process the district will provide a better convenience for their students and save some money while doing so.
“We can save money, but the second and most important thing we can do, is provide a better service for our kids in our district,” said TUSD Superintendent Sonny Da Marto on Nov. 3.
At Tuesday’s TUSD Board of Trustees meeting, trustees were presented with information about the new programs that will be offered by the district.
Over the years TUSD has been able to take back severely handicap programs, emotionally disturbed programs, autism programs and autism inclusion classes. But this year, TUSD has taken back three more programs — social skills, emotionally disturbed level one and severely handicapped full inclusion — for a cost savings of $261,000.
“All of us realized that we have a very high cost in our district for special education,” Da Marto said at Tuesday’s board meeting. “We are running 17 percent of our budget (on special education), which is costing us about six million dollars and we haven’t given up on the idea that we are going to continue to work and provide the best programs to our students. We will not short change any of our students but continue to find new ways and new strategies where we can provide excellent education for these students and at the same time, save on some costs.”
Some of the costs savings have been due to a decrease in staffing in the district’s special education department through attrition and moving from a year around calendar to a traditional calendar.
Since 2007/2008, TUSD resource specialists have decreased by 16 percent and positions in resources have decreased by 19.4 percent, according to TUSD staff reports. And since 2004/2005, autism classes have grown from three classes to eight classes with a 37 percent decrease in staffing in the past four years. Currently there are eight more paraprofessionals now for double the amount of classes for autism.
The different programs that TUSD has taken back into their own district has helped 37 students exit the special education program with 25 of those students exiting without the need of an aide and 12 of those students currently using some degree of paraprofessional support, said Denise Banghart-Bragg, TUSD director of special education
“When you can operate the program yourself, you can provide more services for the students,” Banghart-Bragg said. “We see better outcomes because we are able to be in the classrooms more frequently with the students.”
To contact Maegan Martens, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.