Calendar 2012 Fiscal 2013 Edit
Review of City Solicitors budget
The city attorney expects more cases against families because of less state funding of social services.
"Unfortunately we will see more and more and more special education cases coming forward because of the breakdown in the state in funding social services programs for families. We’re responsible in large part for going in and even brushing a kid’s teeth in the morning so that they won’t have bad breath and won’t be made fun of and can have access to their programming when they come into school."
Goals in budget. Page 2 here http://newtonma.gov/civica/filebank/blobdload.asp?BlobID=43334
Outcome #3: Reduced education‐related litigation Target
- Strategy #1. Work with administrators and special educators
- Regular training Quarterly
- Assign staff members to answer daily education questions June 2012
- Strategy #2. Understand recent changes in education law
- Attend pertinent seminars Quarterly
- Communicate changes in law to clients Ongoing
- Network with other education law attorneys Monthly
Calendar 2011 Fiscal 2012 Edit
No discussion of Special Education.
No mention of special education in the goals of the department or anywhere else.
Calendar 2010 Fiscal 2011 Edit
No discussion of SPED.
Under accomplishments (page 3 or page 61 of document) it lists these two:
- Won appeal of contentious special education matter in federal court.
- Prevailed in case before the Bureau of Special Education Appeals concerning private placement.
I think this is the case they claim to have "prevailed in":
The school department education money was used to fight this case: http://www.doe.mass.edu/bsea/decisions/09-6466.doc
The child was in Learning Prep which is less expensive than the program Newton wanted, Reach. Newton lost but didn't pay for past years because the parents had not proved in advance that NPS was inappropriate. Newton pays part of the parent's legal fees but still extracts enough money to hire more city attorneys.
Calendar 2009 Fiscal 2010Edit
Describe a great number of cases and gives example of using education funds for lawyers.
Page 8 "There are a greater number of special education cases that the School Department needs assistance in resolving or trying. They have a good working relationship with them and the idea is to do preventive law whenever possible. The numbers looked skewed in the salary account because the School Department is paying for 2 days a week for one of the attorneys."
Calendar 2008 Fiscal 2009 Edit
"Mr. Funk persuaded the School Department to pay the Law Department an additional $15,000 per year for work they’ve been doing for Special Education cases. This would fund one attorney for one day a week. These additional funds allowed fewer cuts in the department. There has been a big influx of special needs students into the school system and cases brought against the School
Department when parents were not happy with the services their children were receiving. Quite a bit of money was at stake in these cases especially if a private placement was made which would stay in effect for many years to come."
For the case he is talking about see: http://www.doe.mass.edu/bsea/decisions/07-6945.doc
In this case the family went pro se to ask for help when their child suffered server anxiety due to bullying. The private school they sent their child to is less expensive than public school with associated services. The parents lost and Newton used the money taken from the parents to hire more attorneys.
Calendar 2007 Fiscal 2008 Edit
Ald. Weisbuch said this is a program focused on mental health services for school aged children. There are only 19 funded similar models through the federal government across the country, and Newton has one. The grant for this project was supposed to run out in February, but Margaret Hannah, the director, has been able to extend it to June. The School Dept. used to have control of this project and they agreed to fund some part of its growth period. Through further discussions, Ald. Weisbuch said
that although the concept is fantastic, it might not necessarily be the model the City wants to adopt immediately. He asked that the discussion of mental health services for children be kept active and the Committee decide how best to deal with this item for now. Commissioner Naparstek thought this needed further investigation and study. The Committee moved to hold this item.
They are told that it’s always medical and they have to go to Riverside. Under clinical services on the org chart, one has to work down 3 levels
to get to the youth outreach function. Restoring some social workers to work with the kids in a non-medical way seems important.
Funding was restored.
The substantive change is the Law Department is the tremendous increase in the number of Special Education cases. For many years, Ouida Young did all the Special Ed matters in the office as there were a relatively small number of cases, periodic advice, and some settlement agreements. In the last few years, Donnalyn Kahn has been brought in to take on quite a bit of the cases they’re facing, and now Angela is added to the mix bringing the office to 3 attorneys working on Special Ed cases.
He said that a philosophical change took place over the last few years whereby rather than settle with those families who were not satisfied with the plan that was proposed to them, the City is now saying they will do everything they can to do the right thing by these families, give them what they’re legally entitled to, but no more. They can’t afford it. As a result of that philosophy and a few other reasons, there are many, many more of these cases.