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Audit: Disabled students in Oregon lack adequate funding

State of Oregon

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — An audit released Wednesday by Oregon Secretary of State Bev Clarno's office found that disabled students in Oregon aren't receiving adequate support, due to limited funding and rising caseloads.

The audit of the 2018-2019 school year said that Oregon doesn't have a strategic plan to guide the use of special education resources statewide, and that means children in some parts of the state have gaps in services.

Caseloads are also rising, and it's hard to retain special education teachers.

The number of children from birth to pre-kindergarten in special education programs rose from about 9,000 students in 2014 to more than 11,000 in 2018.

News release from Oregon Secretary of State Bev Clarno:

SALEM, OR — Children experiencing disabilities have not consistently received the necessary access to educational services and supports, according to an audit released today by the Secretary of State. The findings are outlined in the report entitled: “ODE Can Better Support Students Experiencing Disabilities Through Improved Coordination and Monitoring of Services.”

Auditors found only 33.4% of children under age three who experience disabilities received an adequate level of services from 2018 to 2019. Older children who enter the school system are faced with a system that may have difficulty meeting their ongoing needs. Many districts have experienced high caseloads of special education students and limited funding. Rural districts face substantial challenges concerning the availability of special education teachers and other professionals, which is limited even in urban areas of the state.

Additionally, while early childhood programs benefit from the use of a statewide case management data system to coordinate services, no such data system exists for special education programs for school-age children in grades K-12.

“Children who experience disabilities deserve the supports they need to be successful in school,” said Secretary of State Bev Clarno. “While currently the coronavirus pandemic has created many challenges, it is important that our children with disabilities are not left behind.”

Special Note: While the majority of audit work was completed before the COVID-19 pandemic began to take effect, the Audits Division recognizes that the pandemic creates substantial challenges for ODE and will affect the agency’s ability to respond to this report’s findings and recommendations.

Read the full audit on the Secretary of State website.

Article Topic Follows: Oregon-Northwest

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