Fairness in special ed placements

Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande.

On June 20, the New Jersey State Assembly, by a vote of 74-0, passed legislation prohibiting public school boards from awarding bonuses to superintendents for reducing the number of special needs students placed out of district. Republican Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande, from the 11th District, which includes several municipalities in Monmouth County, sponsored the bill.

In advocating for this law, Assemblywoman Casagrande said, “The most important consideration for special education is what’s best for the child. That decision should never be clouded by an administrator’s personal financial stake in the outcome.” Casagrande introduced the bill after some districts had allegedly begun awarding such bonuses. She added that, “Merit pay for outstanding educational achievement and reducing spending are commendable goals; however, not at the expense of special needs children.”

An article in the MoreMonmouthMusings blog had reported that Casagrande became aware of this issue last March while touring the Oakwood School, a non-profit, non-sectarian private school in Tinton Falls that serves adolescents with Asperger/autism. She told MMM that she put herself in the shoes of a parent already fighting for a special needs student and being confronted with an additional obstacle: a superintendent with a financial incentive to withhold the best educational opportunities.