Early in our 13 years of experience with special education we were surprised that our new country was unmapped. Surely someone had a map somewhere!
But they didn’t. Nobody has a map. There are Federal mandates, like IEP plans, that are common everywhere, but each state has its own details. Parents rely on organizations, like the Autism Society and Pacer, to fill the gaps. Parents with the ability to join volunteer at school or join volunteer organizations hear of essential programs by word of mouth. Relatively wealthy parents hire specialist lawyers to get the inside scoop.
Why isn’t there a map? I suspect it’s an emergent form of rationing. The demand for special education services far exceeds the supply; good maps would lead to a more conspicuous rationing mechanism (or lawsuits). I think this is true of many services, it’s not unique to special education.
Today there was an announcement of a DOE effort to improve the situation...
… The U.S. Department of Education said it will grant $14 million to support parent training and information centers in 28 states and two U.S. territories over the next five years. The centers, which are located in each state, are designed to offer parents assistance with everything from understanding special education law and policy to interpreting results from evaluations….
I wonder why only 28 states. In any case, this comes to roughly $100,000 for each of the states and territories per year. After overhead I think that will fund a staff position, though that position will be lost when the grants run out. It’s not going to make a major change — the terrain remains unmapped.