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Public Hearing Called To Review New Special Education Guidelines

A public hearing will be held on proposed changes to special education funding. The Wyoming Association of Special Education Administrators (WASEA) called for the meeting because they say more time and information are needed before weighing in on the new Chapter 44 rules.

Wyoming is the only state to reimburse school districts 100 percent for special education costs. In the 2017-18 school year that cost the state roughly $238 million. In the midst of budget cuts, lawmakers asked the Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) to further clarify exactly what is reimbursable in the hopes of saving money.

The Chapter 44 rules are what the WDE came up with. A public comment period opened August 20 and will close October 14.

Alan Demaret, the WASEA president, said given the overlap with the start of the school year, special education teachers and administrators have been focused on working with students and couldn't give the proposed rules their full attention.

"We just feel like a hearing allows us to be better informed, gives directors more time to review those proposed rules and regulations, and determine if their workability is going to be something we can move forward with," said Demaret.

The WDE said the Chapter 44 rules are more clarification than a change in procedure. But Demaret said WASEA wants to make sure that doesn't end up limiting districts to the detriment of their students.

"The current rules are only about two pages long and I think that allows for some interpretation for doing what we believe is right for students. The new proposed rules are about 10 pages, which obviously clarify a lot of specific examples," said Demaret. "But in doing so sometimes we get to be so specific that it's hard to encompass everything that directors and staff encounter with the uniqueness of our programming."

The goal of the public hearing on the evening of October 23 in Cheyenne is to make sure districts still have the flexibility they need to meet students' unique needs. It starts at 6 p.m. in the Laramie County School District #1 boardroom. Register to attend the hearing virtually here.

Tennessee -- despite what the name might make you think -- was born and raised in the Northeast. She most recently called Vermont home. For the last 15 years she's been making radio -- as a youth radio educator, documentary producer, and now reporter. Her work has aired on Reveal, The Heart, LatinoUSA, Across Women's Lives from PRI, and American RadioWorks. One of her ongoing creative projects is co-producing Wage/Working (a jukebox-based oral history project about workers and income inequality). When she's not reporting, Tennessee likes to go on exploratory running adventures with her mutt Murray.
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