(TRENTON) – An Assembly panel released on Monday legislation Assembly Democrats Daniel R. Benson, Patrick J. Diegnan, Jr., Jason O’Donnell, Angelica Jimenez, Mila M. Jasey, Nelson T. Albano and Marlene Caride sponsored to ensure that those who help students with disabilities in the classroom will continue to be appropriately qualified.
In September of 2012, the Education Task Force submitted a report on reducing costs and streamlining processes within schools which included a recommendation to change existing code to assign teachers and other personnel outside the child study team to serve as case managers for students with disabilities. It was recently amended to limit the role expansion to guidance counselors and special education teachers. A code proposal to accomplish this change is being currently considered by the State Board of Education.
“The case manager role in serving students with special needs is critically important and should not be compromised in the name of flexibility or for cost cutting measures. Our special needs students should continue to be supported by professionals that have the requisite training and time to devote their full attention to the students,” Benson (D-Mercer, Middlesex).
“The qualifications and expertise of those serving as case managers is vital to the work they do with their students. Their knowledge about special education, its programs and processes as well as an existing relationship and rapport with the students’ family and other members of the child study team are extremely crucial to achieving success for each student,” said Diegnan (D-Middlesex).
“Case managers play an important role in the development, implementation and management of the Individualized Education Program (IEP) of a special needs student. The person serving in this role should be accustomed to demands of the program,” said O’Donnell (D-Hudson).
The bill (A-3986) would codify current State Board of Education regulations which limit who may serve as case managers for students with disabilities to members of child study teams and certain speech-language specialists. Under the current State Board of Education Regulations, a case manager is assigned to a student when it is determined that an initial evaluation for special education services should be conducted.
“Case managers work throughout the year to address many aspects of a students life — transportation, transitions from preschool to adult life, coordinating services like speech therapy, personal aids, community based instruction, and assistive technology. They are the student’s advocate and must have this particular knowledge and experience to support students throughout the process of special education,” said Jimenez (D-Bergen, Hudson).
“Teachers who have had regular responsibilities for an entire class may not have the necessary time, expertise, training and information to effectively serve as a case manager. Also, a guidance counselor who has responsibilities for students in the entire school does not have the adequate time or special knowledge to effectively perform additional duties as a case manager for special needs children,” said Jasey (D-Essex, Morris).
“Case managers are one of the most important resources that a special needs child can have in school. Only those professionals who have the expertise, knowledge and experience to best meet the needs of our special needs students should serve in this role,” said Albano (D-Cape May, Atlantic, Cumberland).
“The current regulations requiring that students receiving special education be served by a case manager who is either a member of the child study team, or a speech-language specialist acting as a member of a child study team, should not be changed. These child study team members are the most suitable and knowledgeable individuals to serve the special needs child. To remove these individuals will be detrimental to the students and their families. We have to remember that the needs of the child must come first.” said Caride (D-Bergen, Passaic).
The bill was released by the Assembly Education Committee; and it will now head to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.