Sunday, August 28, 2016

Education Lessons From A Sparkly District: New Jersey's Special Education Ombudsman

Education Lessons From A Sparkly District: New Jersey's Special Education Ombudsman:

New Jersey's Special Education Ombudsman


On August 2nd, the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) released an Amended Notice of Vacancy for the new position of an Education Program Development Specialist 3 (Ombudsman). You can read the details here. This is a position State Senator Ruiz, Chair of the State Senate Education Committee, had actually wanted to be a Public Advocate. In the world of New Jersey politics, however, that desire got turned into a much watered down Ombudsman position within NJDOE. 

When Senator Ruiz introduced bill S451 which created the position, well over a year ago, I happened to be at the Committee meeting. I was uncharacteristically unprepared, but provided testimony anyway. I told the Committee, parents and students don't need another hoop to jump through. We have a difficult enough time securing classification and services without having yet another obstacle. If the Senator was serious about this position being autonomous, with the actual power to effectively provide help, then great, we need the help. If she couldn't deliver a truly autonomous position, then we don't need it. Senator Ruiz said her hope for the position also encompassed the ability to bring together, or at least help parents identify, the help of other New Jersey agencies, like NJ Division of Developmental Disabilities. The bill passed through the Senate and Assembly and on January 19, 2016, the Governor signed it into law. 

Following its passing, I reached out to Senator Ruiz's office hoping to find a reporting line that was not inside NJDOE. It was suggested the position be housed in NJDOE, but reporting to the NJ Department of Justice. It certainly sounded like the most reasonable way to keep the position from becoming an internal NJDOE position. It was a way to maintain a certain level of autonomy. The idea, apparently, went into a black hole and seven months later we have an 
Education Lessons From A Sparkly District: New Jersey's Special Education Ombudsman:



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