Monday, Oct. 6, 2008| Thank you very much for your article on special education. I was an Integrated Life Skills teacher with San Diego Unified for five years, and a long-term special education sub before that. I always found it extremely difficult trying to advocate for my special education students because the programs did not receive adequate funding for services that, in my professional opinion, the students needed in order to succeed. Often times the parents would have to bring their advocates or case managers from regional centers to help fight for the needs of their children. I really felt that the special ed. program didn’t want to put out extra money for support services that they felt myself and my staff were capable of handling ourselves. We, the teachers, were not taken seriously by our own department when requesting services for the students.
Frequent teacher absences are another major problem. There is not adequate staff support for the students. In fact, the lack of staff support in the classroom landed me with a herniated disk while lifting a student with another staff member — that day we had two staff absences with no replacements, a common problem in my classroom.
I have many, many more stories — both positive and negative. However, all of the years I spend as a special education teacher were the best years of my teaching career.
Thank you again for taking the time to write the article and to bring it to public attention. I really believe there are so many problems with San Diego Unified, and they really need to reform the special education programs — it’s the very least they can do for the students and families.
Editor’s Note: In the original version of this letter, Garcia stated that she’d been told by her program’s office that it didn’t want to pay for extra services. However, she later determined that she was never actually told so. Rather, it was a feeling she got during her time at the district. The letter has been updated to reflect that.