Special education questions to ask your school board candidates.
“I’d go, but what would I ask?” I’ve heard that a lot from parents that I encourage to go to candidate forums.
One of the great things to come out of the 2016 elections is a renewed enthusiasm and participation in all levels of politics. Americans are finally ‘woke’ as they say. And realizing that your voice and your vote matters.
Normally, this year would see an abysmal participation in elections, since it’s an off year. Usually the only thing up for election is school board and no one shows up. I don’t think that will be the case this year. Communities everywhere are seeing more candidates than ever run, and holding forums to meet the candidates.
Whenever I encourage parents to attend these type of events, most hesitate. We NEED you to go. We need IEP parents to attend these things, be our eyes and ears…to see and be seen. “Well, what would I say?” So, in our Facebook group, we crowd-sourced. Easy peasy. And came up with this great list, which I then turned into a free printable PDF for you. Print it and go….that’s it!
Besides the printable below, another great resource is Education Voters. Yes, the are a Pennsylvania-based advocacy group, but they have a TON of valuable information about national issues too. Take a look.
Special Education and Disabilities questions to ask school board candidates
- Often, when children have a diagnosis that greatly impacts their maturity, social interactions and behavior, they are given consequences that, while in line with school policies, are ineffective. How will you balance the needs of students in this situation with school policies regarding behavior?
- Are you willing to meet with parents when they identify systemic problems?
- When you know the school has violated the law how would you handle it?
What would you do to prevent it going forward?
What systems do you have in place to address issues?
How do you propose to address issues without wasting money on attorney fees?
- Recently, our government passed “XYZ Bill” which many feel will affect special education because….(fill in blank). What do you think our district can and should do to counter balance the negative effects of this legislation?
- What do you think is the greatest challenge in xyz school district regarding special education?
- As a BOE director, would you support a special education specific survey of all parents with students on 504 Plans and IEP’s who attend neighborhood, magnet and charter schools in this school district.
- I always ask a very general question like “What is your philosophy of special education?” You can tell a lot about whether they have put any thought into it or if they are just spouting back district policy.
- What is your experience with inclusion and what do you think our school district can do to increase inclusive practices?
- Do you see the inclusion student as an asset to the classroom, or as an obligation and why?
- Do you believe that our school staff needs more training in issues such as autism, behaviors and mental illness? Do you think it should be mandatory and how would that happen?
- What they think it means for students to be supported in the ‘least restrictive environment’?
- Budgeting–during the year, new needs arise, new students needing services move in, staff takes a leave of absence. How do you plan to budget for these additional expenses and from where will you redirect additional funds to ensure required services are provided?
- Other topics to think about and possibly generate a question: restraint and seclusion, teacher/staff mandatory training, FAPE, contentious nature of IEP meetings, out of district placements, alternative education, manifestation hearings, assistive technology.
Another parent had this to offer, as far as what happened in her district: We had a school board gifted/special ed forum and solicited questions from our parent support group. Two things to keep in mind: 1-don’t present over complicated individual or very legal/procedural SpEd questions. We sent our questions in advance to the school board candidates and they were honestly kind of scared. If the ? required too much clarification or background info, we simplified to get clear answers. 2-The co-leaders of our group moderated questions and follow-up questions very carefully. We didn’t take additional questions from the floor directly so that we didn’t veer off topic. At all of our meetings, we pass out sticky notes and pens and have people in the meeting write questions for us to pick up. We summarized on the fly so we didn’t keep answering the same questions. Finally, we had time limits for each board member to answer questions so we could get to as many questions as possible. Each board member initially spoke for 5 minutes and then we asked ?s. It sounds a little stringent but we’ve been doing forums for 7 years on many topics with other speakers and parents have a tendency to veer away from the subject into personal discussions. Not a bad thing but when you are trying to have a forum with lots of info and feedback, there really isn’t time. The hard thing to keep in mind is that school board members may have a base knowledge of special ed but that their actual roles are only really about budgets and adding staff. Questions asking more detailed info about special ed procedural info can quickly veer off into FERPA.
Now, here is your printable to print and take with you.