The Ohio Department of Education has received an uptick in complaints regarding its schools’ special services programs.

According to data compiled by the Center for Appropriate Dispute Resolution in Special Education (CADRE), Ohio families are experiencing a collective frustration with the special educational services provided by Ohio’s K12 schools. A report covering Ohio Special Services programs from 2004 to 2016 shows a recent uptick in written state complaints, mediations, and due process complaints — on both on a state and national level.

For both the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 school years (the most recent years for which there is available data), the Ohio Department of Education received more than 170 due process complaints. Not since the 2008-2009 school year had the ODE received this many complaints. Moreover, according to CADRE, this two-year period’s 6.8 per 10,000 students complaint rate represents only the third time in the last decade and a half that this metric has exceeded the 6.0 threshold.

Special services is something that must be delicately handled and tailored to the needs of each student, but because the problem is occurring at such a large scale, there’s good reason to believe it exists at the institutional level. What districts should be asking themselves is what they can do to support special services educators to ensure that every child is given the attention and opportunity they’re afforded under state and federal law.

A Roadmap to Improvement

While it remains unclear as to what, exactly, has caused this uptick in complaints, it stands to reason that insufficient funding is at least part of the problem. Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) have been shown to help students with special needs succeed, but not without significant costs attached. Schools spend roughly 1.9 times more in total expenditures and 2.1 times more in operating expenditures on students with a learning-impairing disability than on those without one.

With the latest Ohio state budget either freezing or cutting funding for 374 districts, it’s little wonder why schools across the state are struggling to provide adequate support for their special services programs.

As an administrator, improving this state of affairs means doing everything you can to ensure that your district receives every last dollar of state and federal funding to which it’s entitled. Failing to report a single IEP can cost a district up to $7,000 in lost funding, meaning cash-strapped schools can’t afford to let even one of them fall through the cracks.

With Vinson’s CheckPoint EMIS platform, superintendents and district treasurers can rest easy knowing that their student data is organized and validated on a continual basis, guaranteeing accountability up and down the reporting chain.

Educating students with special needs is as expensive as it is important, and implementing a solution like CheckPoint is the first step toward building an equitable system that ensures every student succeeds.