Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Is Rural Special Education Different?

Do you think that rural special education raises unusual and difficult issues? Although it is more difficult than I thought to define "rural," the federal government for example has many definitions of rural, I believe that the potential for isolation, remoteness and transportation problems caused by sparse populations separated by large distances is real. The utilization of new technologies professional training and in holding IEP team meetings is critical.

If you are interested in rural special education issues, the American Council on Rural Special Education (ACRES) will hold its annual conference in beautiful Charleston, West Virginia from March 12 - 15, 2008. I will be speaking at the conference. ACRES is a great organization made up of terrific and smart people who really care about educating rural children with disabilities. If you are interested in these issues, this is a very good conference. I spoke at their conference two years ago and was impressed by the caliber of the educational sessions.

To learn more about ACRES and their conference, check out their website at


  1. Special Education Law Blog postulated an interesting question: Is Rural Special Education Different? I thought I would cross post my answer on Adjunct Law Profs Blog as well as on the Special Education Law Blog.

    My answer is of course rural special education is different-very different. Why? Rural communities do not have the same services as large population centers. If a student needs a special form of speech therapy, such a "PROMPT," there may not be any PROMPT trained SLP in the community. Additionally, a school district may have only one SLP in the District; if she is no good, well there is no other alternative. Additionally, a child may have to travel for supportive services or the District may have to bring someone in from outside the community. Therefore, travel costs may have to factored in. Additionally, it may be more difficult to schedule therapy for a child if he has to travel.

    Smaller communities also may have less autism classes and less experienced teachers. In a rural community, a parent is may not be able to find an experienced education lawyer. They are therefore, likely to retain a store front lawyer who may be out of his league.

    These are just some of the differences. I am sure that there are more.

    Mitchell H. Rubinstein

  2. Thanks Mitch.

    I'll add some more thoughts on this in a few days.

  3. Of course the flip side to Mr. Rubenstein's good points are that rural communities are far less likely to have litagation insurance and are also less likely to have quick access to experienced special ed counsel. Also, in this writer's opinion, rural communities, due to their size and budget, tend to weigh the decision to litigate or settle according to cost/benefit analyses, whereas in big districts, some (such as the districts in the Zachary Deal and Jacob Winkelman cases) will spend over a hundred thousand dollars fighting over services which themselves cost far less to the district than the cost of fighting the parents.

    However, in states where there is a type of safety net feature for special ed funding (designed so that no district will have to deny services based upon availability of funding, if the district can prove they actually need the money) -- these smaller districts tend to have their accounting ducks in a row, so if they truly cannot afford the service, they will be able to easily document this fact to the state, and qualify for the funding required in order to be able to provide the services the child requires in order to receive a FAPE from the LEA.

  4. We, at UNT, would like to announce that the federal government has funded our online Master's education in Autism Intervention for 25 educators in Rural Texas school districts. The program is called Project DART: A Distributed Education Program in Autism Personnel in Rural Texas. We will provide tuition costs for the top 25 applicants who are selected based on their GPA, GRE and other information. Students could enroll in a Master’s Degree or the 6-course Graduate Academic Certificate (GAC), which will also be funded effective Spring 2009. Interested candidates could check our website at: http://www.coe.unt.edu/autismprograms/ for more information.

    Thank you so much.

    Dr. Smita Mehta
    Associate Professor in Special Education
    University of North Texas