Public hearings will be held on November 7, at 5 p.m. at the Community College of Rhode Island in Warwick and on November 8, at 5 p.m. in the Paff Auditorium at the University of Rhode Island to hear the public’s opinion on proposed changes to funding for special education students who attend private schools.
The Board of Regents and the state Board of Education are now considering repealing Rhode Island's standards, which state that the municipality where a special education student lives is responsible for contributing additional funding to their special education needs at a private school, even if the school is in a different city or town. By doing this, the funding responsibility would be placed entirely on the city or town where the school is located, in accordance to federal guidelines.
Currently, both sets of regulations are being followed, so Rhode Island's cities and towns are, in effect, going above and beyond the federally-mandated requirements, said Lillian McIntyre, the Assistant Superintendent of Catholic schools. "There's nothing in the federal statute that says states can't do more than the minimum," McIntyre said.
The funding provided by cities and towns is, of course, in addition to whatever money the particular school is able to allot for the education of their own special needs students.
The special needs accommodated by these funds run the gamut from special equipment like hearing devices for hearing-impaired students and large print textbooks for visually-impaired students, to additional staff trained to provide speech and language therapy, among many more.
If the state regulations are repealed, the funding required to educate students will likely not be received by private schools.
McIntyre said she hopes that reason will prevail while these decisions are being made. She said she hopes the members of the Board of Regents and the Department of Education will ask themselves, “What would reasonable people sitting around a table and focusing on the child do to mediate the situation?"
The diocese encourages anyone whose child could be affected by these changes in regulations to attend the public hearings and support parents’ right to place their children in Catholic schools.