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An appropriate education

Original post made on Jan 15, 2023

For Betsy and Jamison Cummings, their daughter's education means everything. But as 13-year-old Piper looks to her future high school days, her parents are fearful that she won't get the help she needs for her learning disabilities...

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, January 12, 2023, 9:34 PM

Comments (25)

Posted by KTeed
a resident of Val Vista
on Jan 16, 2023 at 7:57 pm

KTeed is a registered user.

Thank you, for writing this important story! More parents and involved members of our community need to be aware of this serious, ongoing problem. The issues covered in this one story are just a sampling of how PUSD has failed its special education students and families.


Posted by Ob
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 17, 2023 at 6:04 am

Ob is a registered user.

"They plan to seek reimbursement of legal fees incurred and to obtain reimbursement on the due process fees." -- Awesome. Let's all sue the district. This will improve education for everybody!


Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Jan 17, 2023 at 7:47 am

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

I think the point is PUSD has ignored many special needs families. I have sat in board meetings where hundreds of thousands of dollars are awarded to these families. Does the district think this is cheaper than providing services? There is about 12% of students with special needs. It’s been a while, but PUSD is trying to hold those they serve to 10% or less. And so, legal fees will continue.


Posted by Ob
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 17, 2023 at 9:50 am

Ob is a registered user.

"I think the point is PUSD has ignored many special needs families. " -- How can you make that sweeping generalization of something so complicated. PUSD has a limited budget. I think expectations are too high for both the district and teachers. Is the expectation that every teacher be an expert at teaching every special needs issue? They have a full classroom and if one third of your students have IEP's, how can you meet that need? If the IEP was created by a lawyer, how realistic is that? Litigation, adversarial relationships.... These are not the answer. And then you have the gall to sue and send your kid back to PUSD so he can play football. LOL.


Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Jan 17, 2023 at 11:33 am

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

Ob, no district can willfully ignore the needs of a student. It is a public school system. Come up with a better plan or at least train teachers. In this case, the student chose to come back; don’t know if they will be able to play football. In some cases, a student can be sent to another—usually private—school who can best address the needs, and it costs the sending school district. So, they are going to pay. Talk to Sacramento if you find this laughable.


Posted by Ob
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 17, 2023 at 11:37 am

Ob is a registered user.

KR, missing the point, as usual.

They are training teachers. They are spending considerable money with a new system.

IEP's don't address reality. They just assume that anything is possible and funding is unlimited.

Litigation just takes money away from everything else and funds these families vacations.


Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Jan 17, 2023 at 9:39 pm

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

Ob, I read the article and understand teachers are being trained. I hardly believe vacations are part of the families’ plans. 12% of population vs 9-10% being served is the problem. Again, PUSD apparently believes paying out their losses is cheaper than providing the services in the first place. That is a major problem.


Posted by Ob
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 18, 2023 at 6:03 am

Ob is a registered user.

"The average cost of educating a special education student each year is $26,000, compared to $9,000 to educate a “general education” student. Costs vary widely depending on the disability of each student, the LAO report notes. For example, it might cost $1,000 a year to provide a student with periodic speech therapy, while a student in an out-of-state non-public school with severe emotional problems might cost a district $100,000 a year."

"Another flaw in how California underwrites special education is that state funds are mostly allocated based on total district enrollment, not based on the number of students in special education, or the severity of their disabilities."

"Local school districts have had to pick up an ever-increasing share of the costs. On average, California school districts now pay 61 percent of the costs, up from 49 percent just a decade ago, according to the LAO report."


Posted by Ob
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 18, 2023 at 6:10 am

Ob is a registered user.

This is a funding problem, period. Special education is taking up a bigger share of local districts budget pie. Districts have a limited budget and they are in the unenviable position (similar to an HMO) of having to limit services (or care) in order to balance the books. I'm taking issue with the decision to litigate as the "model". Because the parents don't have separate "accounts" (like the district), when they are paid out for their legal fees, we the taxpayers are definitely funding their vacations. I'm assuming those families take vacations.


Posted by Ob
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 18, 2023 at 6:13 am

Ob is a registered user.

And another issue: The better a district gets with special education, the more special education students will enroll which hurts your budget even more. Parents will move.


Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Jan 18, 2023 at 7:43 am

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

People moving in has been an issue for many years.

Families take vacations regardless. Don’t pin those vacations on special ed payouts. It’s a ridiculous argument.

There is, however, a funding problem, and not just with special ed. That much we can agree on.


Posted by Ob
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 18, 2023 at 7:55 am

Ob is a registered user.

"There is, however, a funding problem, and not just with special ed. That much we can agree on." Game, set, match. So if it's a funding issue, then are these family's litigation activities helping or hurting the district's funding situation? We are paying for the district's lawyers, parent's lawyers, admin costs, legal fees, and the education plus ups. Litigation isn't helping. And they are using emotional words like "tragedy and trust", when its just about the money.... And then re-enroll their kid when he wants to play football. WABOFBS.


Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Jan 18, 2023 at 7:20 pm

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

I should have said there is a general funding problem for education, special and general ed. The fact is PUSD and many districts are not meeting the needs of their students.


Posted by DR
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 18, 2023 at 9:59 pm

DR is a registered user.

OM
You are incorrect. I spend $200 a week just for speech because our school in Pleasanton does not have a speech pathologist. Did you know they have students under the Deaf and Hard of Hearing and have no employee that can attend an IEP meeting to give support to the student? Reading specialists are not qualified to teach children with learning disabilities such as Dyslexia. There is a science to reading and it’s costly to parents due to the cost of tutoring specific to Dyslexia. One in five students are dyslexic. 2000 plus students at one of our high schools and not one teacher is trained in a program that teaches students how to read beyond “look at the picture “ or memorize the story aka Bob Books. The pathway to prison for dyslexic starts in third grade. The percentage in jail is astounding. We need to see this problem and work to fix it. The district spends a lot of money to fight something that instead they could pay for.


Posted by Ob
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 19, 2023 at 6:28 am

Ob is a registered user.

We are so close. So if PUSD is challenged to meet the needs of all these students with specialized needs due to lack of funding, does these parents lawsuits hurt or help the funding situation?

Simple question.


Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Jan 19, 2023 at 9:25 am

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

They help because until the district gets this right it’s parents only answer.


Posted by Ob
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 19, 2023 at 11:17 am

Ob is a registered user.

It absolutely would be great if every student had an individualized education to fit their specific needs. What's the cost of that? Is there an example of that anywhere in public school in the US? Atherton? Palo Alto? Nope. The expectation should not be that PUSD can do this. Parents have to supplement for their specific students needs. Done.

Parents only answer --- Nope, they could work with their teachers and district while supplementing with tutors. If that doesn't work and they meet a roadblock.... Maybe public education isn't for you. Go private. Pursuing litigation and forcing all of us to pay for your unrealistic expectations while hurting the institution that you tell yourself you are somehow helping?


Posted by ptowntb
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Jan 19, 2023 at 11:47 am

ptowntb is a registered user.

Thanks to the families in the article for speaking out; it takes courage! And it is not only special ed students who need effective reading instruction.


Posted by Justamom
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 21, 2023 at 2:22 pm

Justamom is a registered user.

OB. Did you really say “And another issue: The better a district gets with special education, the more special education students will enroll which hurts your budget even more. Parents will move.” You are what is wrong with the world. How dare you?! I’ve seen gen Ed kids destroy the school morale and property. They are costly. You are gross.


Posted by Frustrated Voter
a resident of Birdland
on Jan 21, 2023 at 5:48 pm

Frustrated Voter is a registered user.

My heart breaks for student needs not being met. Absolutely. It should not be a parent’s job to have to advocate so vociferously for their child’s needs to be met. And know that most teachers, especially at the elementary level, ask for help all.the.time but are met with the same brick walls. Please understand that “training teachers” is not the exactly correct answer. An analogy is that you go to a GP for your general health concerns, but a specialist for more specific needs. A general education teacher is not a specialist and cannot diagnose; they only can seek help from those who have more specialized training. PUSD and neighboring districts need to invest in specialists - on site, on demand - instead of foisting more expectations and responsibilities on GenEd teachers.


Posted by Ob
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 23, 2023 at 8:24 am

Ob is a registered user.

"How dare you?!" -- Point out the costs and that local school districts have to pay for it out of the same pot of money? Yeah, I'm losing sleep over it. Again, it would be great if funding was unlimited and every student got the specialized education they needed to thrive. Wait, I think I just saw a Unicorn roll by my window.


Posted by BobB
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Jan 24, 2023 at 11:25 am

BobB is a registered user.

Ob,

Every student does not need specialized education. The majority will not. Sometimes these lawsuits are necessary to get the needed help. Sadly, this appears to be the case in the story. I'm glad they're getting a help they need now.


Posted by Ob
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 24, 2023 at 1:37 pm

Ob is a registered user.

So remove the emotion from the argument. I have a student who needs specialized help. The district is offering X. As the parent, of course I'm going to want X+Y. The district has a fixed budget and can not offer the (+Y). They may not even be able to offer it to this one student, because they would then have to offer it to everyone with this need, which they really can't afford. The ( +Y) may not even help my student, but heh, I'm desperate and my child definitely needs help. So, I decide to sue the district. But, I'm really suing the wrong entity. I should be suing the state for the unfunded mandate. By suing the district, I'm taking away funding from everything, which makes the whole problem worse for everyone else. I may get the +Y to some extent for my individual student, but I'm reducing the money for everyone else (gen and spec). So, when you say that these lawsuits are necessary and should be the model, I'm going to say no.


Posted by Save it!
a resident of Heritage Valley
on Jan 25, 2023 at 8:30 pm

Save it! is a registered user.

Early in elementary school we asked the district to assess our son for suspected learning differences. The district refused to assess him. We waited another year or two, asked again, again they denied. We paid for a private assessment out of pocket more than $6,000. We brought the results to the district and they decided they wanted to test him. After testing they found he was not eligible for a 504 or IEP based on their findings. Their findings couldn't have been farther from ours if they tried.
We asked to see their testing notes which legally they are supposed to retain. They couldn't produce them. We searched his files, they weren't in there. Had the district provided the notes and proved their results it likely would have stopped us from being able to move forward. Why did they lose their notes? Accident? Maybe. Who knows?
What's the next step? Request an IEE. The district denies our request for an IEE and off to litigation we go. Now we are forced to hire an attorney to represent us. If we don't have legal representation we are going to get smoked. I can't disclose the results but I can say that had the district initially agreed to our first request for an assessment they likely would have denied us, we would have been none the wiser and been appreciative of them being a supportive district who clearly must have the best interest of all students in their hearts. Instead they cost us and others an egregious amount of time in bs arguments, not to mention the amount of money wasted on testing. We handed them a completed report. We saved them time and money... but still, they fought... why? what is their motivation? Is it less expensive to deny, deny, deny? I imagine most families don't have additional funds and time to fight the district. It's not cheap and there's no guarantee you win. Imagine parents who pay for a private schools to support their children. Private school payments in addition to prop taxes paid that fund public ed they can't access. No win.


Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Jan 26, 2023 at 9:02 am

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

Save it! has stated the reality. PUSD is working to keep the spec ed group lower than is needed, hurting students. And to be clear, this is the administration, not teachers. As to private schools who can actually help a student if PUSD refuses, PUSD may have to pay. And that’s why you hire a lawyer to get a response.


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