Only one-third of Oregon children in special education receive adequate level of services

OREGON – An Oregon Secretary of State’s audit says the Department of Education can better support students experiencing disabilities.

The audit released this month reveals there is a lack of resources for students in Oregon who have disabilities.

It says the biggest issues are a shortage of special education teachers and a lack of funding.

“We are finding students with more profound needs on multiple levels of need from academic to communication to behavioral,” said secondary special education coordinator for Central Point School District 6, Ryan Munn.

The audit says for the 2018-19 school year, 80,000 children in Kindergarten through 12th grade were identified as students experiencing disabilities.

The audit claims only one-third of Oregon children in special education courses received an adequate level of services.

“Less professionals, more students identified, the challenge has become greater and greater to meet those students,” Munn said.

He adds that the problems statewide are much the same as in his district.

“Our teachers are incredible people, we simply need more people like them,” said Munn.

The state’s audit says Oregon schools receive twice the standard per-student allocation of state funds for students with disabilities, but, it only applies up to 11% of a school district’s student population.

With many districts exceeding the 11% cap, they aren’t getting adequate funding.

“We are at about 15% of our total student population identified as special education, so we have to be creative in the use of our funding to make sure that we’re giving quality services to all of our students,” Munn said.

However, that’s just one of the issues the audit points to.

Rural schools are at a disadvantage in special education as well, according to the audit.

“One of the things that is difficult in our district and really regionally here in southern Oregon, is getting people within the field to re-qualify to live in our area,” said elementary special education coordinator for Central Point School District 6, Felicia Holt.

The Oregon Department of Education says it agrees with most of the audit.

Specifically, figuring out funding to meet adequate service levels in future school years.

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