The Los Angeles Unified School District, which educates about 64,500 students with disabilities, will regain full control over programs that serve their special needs after decades of costly court-ordered outside supervision, officials said in remarks published Wednesday.
The court-approved agreement will end a consent decree dating back to 1996, when district officials acknowledged they were not meeting their legal obligations to serve students with a broad range of disabilities, including dyslexia, autism, aphasia, blindness and paralysis, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The education of disabled students is a major part of the mission for the nation’s second-largest school system, where about 13% of students are classified as having a significant disability. To educate them this year, the district will spend about $1.75 billion out of a general fund budget of about $8 billion.
“This is an important milestone for Los Angeles Unified and the students and families we serve,” Superintendent Austin Beutner said in a statement. “The Court has recognized the exceptional work we’ve done to serve the needs of students in our special education programs. We plan to build on the progress and make sure every student in Los Angeles Unified, including those with special needs, gets a great education.”
In a follow-up interview, Beutner told The Times the agreement to end the supervision, approved last week, was endorsed by advocates for the disabled who were involved in the litigation.
The independent monitor appointed to oversee the district’s progress did not take part in the negotiations to end the consent decree and sharply criticized district efforts as recently as March.
The monitor, David Rostetter, took issue with the district’s claim that efforts to make campuses accessible to the disabled are “aggressive and unmatched in the country,” The Times reported.
“The `aggressive’ plan will address only one-third of its schools over the next 8-10 years,” Rostetter wrote.
“The laudatory tone of this response is misguided given that the District has yet to comply with the (Americans with Disabilities Act), when it was to have met these obligations by 1995.”
But attorney Robert Myers, who represents families of children with disabilities, described a long list of district improvements. For example, he said, in 2003-04, only 41% of children who were characterized as emotionally disturbed had a behavior support plan. In 2017-18, 100% of such children had such a plan.
The order to terminate the consent decree was signed by U.S. District Judge Ronald S.W. Lew and takes effect at the end of December.
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