A new Fayette County Public Schools special education task force will try to "cast a vision for a world-class" program, chief academic officer Lu Young announced Monday.
Young said the decision to create a task force arose from a recommendation by school board member Doug Barnett in May, during talks about controversial budget cuts, that the district needed to take "a deep dive" into special education.
Parents and others had raised concerns after the district said it would cut more than 90 special education aide positions because of overstaffing.
Young said Monday that a good number of those positions had to be filled this school year because of an increase in enrollment. Also, the district has set aside $2 million in the budget to address the specific needs of special education students, she said.
During the course of the school year, she said, there would more targeted use of resources.
Young said an organization meeting about the task force is planned Thursday. It would have 20 members who would include parents, students, educators and higher education representatives. They would meet monthly, possibly for up to three years, she said.
The special education program, in addition to coming into play during last spring's budget talks, was a cause of concern in a recent district equity report. The Fayette Equity Council, a panel that monitors the gaps in achievement and suspension rates among student groups, said disabled students fared worse than other students in several areas.
"Our students with disabilities have the greatest gaps" when compared to non-disabled students, Young said. "We really have to get a handle on special education services if we are going to see the gaps close."
Board member Daryl Love said he would like to see changes as soon as possible.
"You can study stuff to death," he said.
Young agreed, saying, "Let's start fixing what we can."
She proposed a three-pronged approach for the task force. The first would be to provide students with the least restrictive environment. The second would be to analyze achievement data for students with disabilities, comparing it to that of non-disabled students in the district and across the state. The third would be to analyze finances and staffing to better meet student needs.
Also during Monday's meeting, budget director Julane Mullins told the board it would be asked on Sept. 22 to approve an approximately $418 million working general fund budget. The deadline for approval is Sept. 30.