District 86 works to withdrawal from special education agency
Feb 06, 2013 (Chicago Tribune - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Following in the footsteps of Hinsdale-Clarendon Hills School District 181, Hinsdale Township High School District 86 is moving closer to cutting its ties with the La Grange Area Department of Special Education (LADSE) cooperative -- a move that means it would educate special needs students on its own.
The school board recently unanimously approved an agreement that lays out the details of the withdrawal from the agency that was founded in 1957 to provide special education to students from member districts.
The special education group's board already has approved the withdrawal agreement. The only steps that remain are for the boards of the Cook County school districts that are members of the cooperative and for the board of DuPage Regional Office of Education to approve it.
"There are still approvals to happen," said Sheri Wernsing, executive director of LADSE, which has 16 member districts currently.
She said the regional office board is slated to vote on the withdrawal agreement on Feb. 11. The Cook County districts are each expected to vote on it separately in the coming weeks. She does not expect the approvals to hit any roadblocks from other district members.
The 16 members who are currently part of the special education group contribute federal funds received under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA) to the agency and also pay for some additional services.
District 86 has been discussing withdrawal from LADSE for the past year. Previously, Superintendent Nicholas Wahl and board members have said they believed the district contributed a disproportionate amount of the federal funds to the district. It was estimated that the school district kicks in $683,000 a year.
The agency's practice had been to pool contributions made by districts and apply them to paying for services without tying them to a particular district. It also has charged for additional services not covered by federal funds.
Under change this school year in its practices, the special education cooperative now tracks IDEA funds by district. Wernsing said that previously that the Hinsdale school district's contribution amounted to between 20 percent and 30 percent of the agency's budget, about $18 million to $19 million. The student population from the district is 17 percent of the overall population served by the cooperative.
It appears the road ahead is smooth for District 86 to proceed with withdrawal. Though it will be operating with one less district Wernsing said she does not think the agency's operations will be adversely affected by the loss. She also does not foresee other districts following Hinsdale out of the agency.
"We've done so much restructuring. I expect we will have 15 districts in the future," she said. "I am feeling pretty strong and stable."
When District 86 completes the withdrawal process, it will supply its own teachers and programs to educate students with special needs. Hinsdale-Clarendon Hills School District 181 made the same move a couple of years ago.
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