Anticipating LePage’s reorganization, schools move to take over preschoolers’ special ed
Six months have passed since Gov. Paul LePage’s administration said it would propose legislation to have the state’s public schools take over special education for 3- to 5-year-olds. Yet as the Legislature enters the final weeks of an abbreviated session, the legislation from the executive branch has yet to arrive on lawmakers’ desks.
Meanwhile, six school districts have started working to take over the special services from the state’s Child Development Services, or CDS, system before any mandate comes down from the Legislature. They’re making the transition with the help of two grants, together worth more than $1 million, that the Maine Department of Education awarded in January as part of the LePage administration’s push to have more school districts collaborate and deliver services regionally.
Maine is the only state where school districts aren’t responsible for providing special education services to preschool-age children with disabilities and developmental delays, according to the state Department of Education. The department recently submitted its proposal to have the state’s 240 school districts take on that responsibility to the Legislature’s Office of the Revisor of Statutes, which is responsible for drafting legislation, Rachel Paling, a department spokeswoman, said Wednesday.
“It’s the cart before the horse” to have the state fund grants for individual districts to take over CDS’ responsibilities before releasing legislation to authorize the change statewide, said Carrie Woodcock, executive director of the Maine Parent Federation, which helps parents navigate special education services and advocate for their children.
But there’s an upside to the approach, said Woodcock, who served on a committee last fall that made recommendations for the reorganization legislation.
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