The Battle to Improve Special Education

It’s been 40 years since the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act went into effect, and school districts across the country are still working to ensure that students with physical or cognitive impairments have access to educational opportunities that address their needs. In some places, lawsuits have forced districts to do more. In Part I of this report on special education in Los Angeles, we saw the impact of a 20-year class-action lawsuit, which has led to significant improvements for students with disabilities in the nation’s second largest school district. In the past 3 years the district has focused more intently on inclusion, moving many students out of dedicated special education centers and into their regular neighborhood schools.

While many see this as a sign of progress, others see cause for concern. In Part II, we take a closer look. Linda Hilton’s son Brandon has attended one of these centers all his life because, she says, no other school in the district could meet his profound physical and medical needs.

Parents who support having their children in regular schools say they are not receiving the services they require. Is LAUSD moving too fast? What’s needed for large districts to educate students with the greatest needs?

Correspondent John Tulenko speaks with teachers, service providers, parents, students, and LAUSD’s director of special education to get the story.


Check Local Listings
And check out Part I of The Battle to Improve Education, and our recent stories about parents’ efforts to advocate for better services for their children with special needs. There are additional resources and coverage on the topic on our website, and the On Special Education blog.

NPE State Grade Card Report

Our partners at 50th No More attended a meeting in Washington DC at which the Network for Public Education released its annual report on the state of public education in the United States.

Factors examined to determine each state’s grade include:

How well the state promotes a well-trained, professional teaching force.

Is there adequate funding for public education and are funds spent wisely?

Does the state have policies that give all students a better opportunity for success?

You can read the entire report using the link below.


President Signs NEW Elementary and Secondary Education Act

On Dec. 10, President Barack Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 into law. This landmark legislation—which received overwhelming bipartisan support in the House and Senate—reauthorizes the long overdue Elementary and Secondary Education Act/No Child Left Behind (ESEA/NCLB).

This new law brings needed improvements to K-12 education in the United States, provides greater responsibility to states to meet the needs of all students and acknowledges the essential role of family engagement to student achievement.

In large part due to the efforts of PTA members across the country, the ESSA contains a Statewide Family Engagement Centers program that will provide states and districts with the capacity to support effective implementation and enhancement of family engagement policies and initiatives.

Read National PTA’s official statement.

Jacksonville Public Education Toolkit Available

On October 14, 2015 the Jacksonville Public Education Fund presented an overview of the transition to the new Florida Standards.

The document below is intended to help explain the shifts that our schools are experiencing and provide easy-to-use information that you can distribute to the people you know and serve, from parents, students and teachers to clients, friends, neighbors and coworkers. It includes an overview of the shifts that will help you as you talk with people in your network, as well as adaptable and re-usable electronic and print collateral that you can share.

All content provided in the PDF is in the public domain. You are free to modify and adapt all of these materials however works best for you and your organization.

The toolkit is also live online at

If you would like JPEF to present their findings, or provide training on their online tool, please contact Ms. Connor using one of the contacts below.

JPEF sees this toolkit as a living, breathing toolkit that will continue to be updated and added to over time.

JPEF Toolkit

Deirdre Conner
Director of Advocacy & Communications

Direct: (904) 394-0950
Fax: (904) 394-2005

40 East Adams St., Suite 110
Jacksonville, FL 32202

What Lies Ahead for Education During the 2016 Session?

From our partners at Fund Education Now:

Legislators are attending committee meetings now to hash out which bills will make it into the next session.  Since this is a presidential election year, the 2016 Florida Legislature convenes on  January 12th. Every year, most of the same politicians are assigned bills designed to move the “education reform” agenda closer to its ultimate goal of universal vouchers and privatization. Leadership knows these ideas are hostile to public education, so they regularly conceal them in other unrelated, bills.


2015 State of the Schools Presentation

Superintendent Nikolai P. Vitti, joined by the Duval County School Board, presented a State of the Schools’ address on March 10th at 9 a.m. at the University Center at the University of North Florida.
Dr. Vitti provided educators, parents, community members, business leaders, city officials and advocates with an update on the district’s goals, priorities and progress.
Click here for the presentation.