Special education reforms will reduce paperwork for teachers, put the focus back on students

A bipartisan coalition of senators today introduced a series of reforms to strengthen Minnesota’s special education policies, put the focus back on students, keep teachers in the classroom, and save school districts money in the process. The proposals are expected to save special education teachers up to fifty-two hours of paperwork per student every year, or up to nineteen weeks for a class of fifteen students, by reducing burdensome administrative requirements.

“Every policy that has ever been implemented regarding special education has been well-intentioned, but we now have a complex bureaucratic process preventing teachers from actually spending time with their students,” said Senator Eric Pratt (R-Prior Lake). “These bills will make a real impact – students will get more personal interaction with their teachers, teachers will get to do more of what they love, and school districts will get some relief from costly administrative requirements.”

“I’ve heard from teachers in my career and across Minnesota and one thing is clear: they need more time in the classrooms with their students and less time on paperwork,” said Sen. Greg Clausen, DFL-Apple Valley. “This bipartisan work will help our special education teachers focus on meeting students’ needs and helping students reach their full potential.”

Senator Eric Pratt, Chair of the E-12 Policy Committee in the 2017-18 biennium, challenged school administrators last session to suggest concrete ideas to improve special education services for students. The New Ulm School District and Minnesota School Boards Association were especially helpful in crafting suggestions for the committee to review over several meetings held last summer and fall.

“If we truly want to see all students succeed, we need to eliminate unnecessary paperwork and other requirements so our teachers and students can be successful,” added Jeff Bertrang, Superintendent of New Ulm Public Schools.

The bipartisan proposals will also help curtail rising costs that are eating into funding for other school programs, since special education is one of the fastest-growing areas of school districts’ budgets.

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