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Lt. Gov. Brian Calley: Feedback shows significant need to improve special education in Michigan

Special Education Listening Tour and survey findings presented to Michigan Board of Education 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

LANSING, MI – Michigan’s special education programs could be improved in a variety of ways to help students lead self-determined, more productive lives, Lt. Gov. Brian Calley told the Michigan Board of Education today.

Calley gathered feedback from special education parents and educators through a statewide listening tour and online survey, which will officially conclude in Detroit this week with its 10th stop.

"My goal, and the purpose of this effort, is to make Michigan the best state in which to live, work and raise a family. That means for all families, including those who have children using special education services," Calley said. "I have heard from families and educators all across our great state and share their feedback today.”

"The results of today's special education system often fail students, leaving them unprepared for transition after age 26 and subjected to extreme unemployment,” Calley said. “I am confident that with an approach of high expectations, inclusion and using best practices, we can lead the nation in special education excellence. I look forward to collaborating with the Michigan Department of Education to rapidly pursue this path.”

The tour and survey resulted in five key areas related to special education in Michigan that need improvement:

  • Develop a more inclusive and transparent rulemaking process
    • Michigan needs to develop a better system to inform and engage with consumers of special education services before and during the rulemaking process.
  • Improve access to, and the scope and quality of, services
    • Schools should have services that are better tailored and more effective in meeting the specific needs of the child. Individualized education plans should indeed be individualized.
  • End the practices of restraint and seclusion
    • The State Board of Education has a policy significantly limiting the use of these practices to instances involving imminent danger to a child or their peers. This policy, however, does not carry the force of law and is ultimately voluntary. Using the Board of Education’s policy as a starting point, legislation should be crafted that bans the use of restraint and seclusion in schools, except in certain specified emergency situations. 
  • Create a better dispute resolution process
    • There needs to be a free and expedient third-party review and mediation process available to parents for disputes.
  • Support parents with more resources and options 
    • A system should be established to ensure parents receive the information they need to understand their rights and responsibilities related to their child’s individualized education plan. Teachers need to be ensured protection from repercussions for speaking up about a child’s well-being, educational achievement or individualized support within a school.

The complete report and survey results are available to download here.