April 02, 2020

Changes in law aimed at special education

BANGOR – Recent changes to the federal law governing the education of students with special needs will help the Bangor School Department save time and money, the director of pupil services said this week.

Murray Shulman told the Bangor School Committee on Tuesday that he anticipates that the revisions to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act will help teachers make the best use of their time, allow early interventions for children who are struggling, and make it easier for the school system to hire specialists.

“We were pleasantly surprised” by the federal revisions, he told the committee.

Among other things, the changes to the law will:

. Decrease the number of pupil evaluation team meetings each year in Bangor from 1,700 to 900, and allow regular education teachers to be excused from those meetings once they have finished their presentation.

. Enable the school system to use federal money to provide early interventions – such as a reading improvement program – that ultimately could prevent students from being identified as needing more expensive special education services.

. Change the licensing requirements so that service providers would have to meet the state teaching certificate standards, but not necessarily the highest state standards.

“This should open the door for easier access to professionals” such as speech and occupational therapists, said Shulman.

Speech therapists have been scrambling to get master’s degrees, something that no longer will be necessary under the newly revised law, he said.

The Maine Department of Education is developing special education regulations to respond to the passage of IDEIA and the federal regulations, he said.

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