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Illinois state budget cuts will send more students into special education

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Photo courtesy of sam.soneja at Flickr.com
Loss of mentoring programs will likely send more at risk and borderline children into special education classes.

Spokespeople from Lutheran Social Services of Illinois (LSSI) yesterday announced that the inability of Illinois lawmakers to compromise on the state's budget for next year will severely hurt their ability to serve people in Illinois. In fact, one estimate says that nearly 10,000 people in Illinois will go without services.

So what does this have to do with special education?

"Every dollar we invest in preventative community programs saves taxpayers an average of $6 to $8 down the road. These cuts aren't just morally irresponsible, they are fiscally irresponsible. If we turn our back on abused children, people with mental illness, our seniors and disabled, they don't just magically disappear. They turn up again in our special education classes, our prisons, our emergency rooms and nursing homes, but at much greater cost to the taxpayer." says Bishop Warren Freiheit of the Central/Southern Illinois Synod of the ELCA

It is important to remember that the term 'special education' includes more than just children who have learning or developmental disabilities. ADHD, ODD, bipolar disorder, OCD, depression, and PTSD, are all diagnoses that can qualify a child for special education services. On that same token, children with these issues may be able to participate in a regular classroom without the help of a special education program if outside intervention is available and utilized. Without intervention, children with these issues will likely end up needing services from the school district.

LSSI provides services that many people are not aware of. One program, called STARS (Strengthening Today's At Risk Students) works in the Rockford Public School District to provide tutoring, child care, parent training, parent support, counseling, mentoring, and referrals to other sources for children in Kindergarten through Eighth grades.

In several Illinois counties, LSSI provides school based services. According to their site, “LSSI’s professional counselors work directly with the schools to provide prevention and intervention services for children from kindergarten through 12th grades. Services include: individual counseling, crisis intervention, group counseling, classroom presentations, faculty/staff education and academic enrichment.”

If LSSI is unable to offer these types of assistance, public schools will have to take up the slack by offering tutoring, counseling, and other services. If they don't, we can expect numbers to begin to rise in the behavior and learning disorder programs of our already overburdened Illinois schools.

Lutheran Social Services of Illinois (LSSI) is a statewide, not-for-profit agency. LSSI serves 72,583 people through wide range of services at 83 program sites and in 59 counties in Illinois. For more information about LSSI or their services, call 847/635-4600 or visit www.LSSI.org.

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