District 102 LADSE Withdraw

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We, the citizens of District 102, petition the Board of Education to complete a cost-benefit analysis of the proposed withdrawal from the LaGrange Area Department of Special Education (LADSE) Cooperative. We request that the Board of Education do further due diligence on the financial ramifications of leaving the cooperative.

There has not been a transparent and comprehensive presentation that demonstrates the advantages of the withdraw. We have found the information presented to the board to be one-sided and not data or fact-driven.

LADSE recruits, hires, supervises, supports, and retains specialized professionals. LADSE is not a contract agency. It offers the districts it serves supervisory services for specialized personnel. This assistance can be crucial for personnel who may be the only professionals in a school offering the services they perform. These individuals need mentoring and support to the same extent as classroom teachers. LADSE provides that mentoring and support. LADSE offers the districts it serves long-term substitute coverage through its network and recruitment. LADSE offers specialized professional development to district personnel concerning students with low incidence needs. The cooperative is a network between a large number of neighboring districts. Without a cooperative, the district loses its safety net for specialized expertise.

The LADSE Cooperative provides wrap-around services and assistive technology services at no additional cost to the district. Some of the services, such as autism consultation, are not currently utilized by the district. In the adminstration's last presentation, an adminstrator indicated that the district would simply hire a part time assistive technology professional. But, there was no discussion of the cost of assistive technology materials, staff training, or the cost of joining an assistive technology network, such as Infinitec. These are services and resources the district is provided through our LADSE contract at no additional cost.

Hinsdale withdrew from LADSE three years ago and is now paying approximately $2 million dollars more per year for its special services. Taxpayers in District 102 recently passed a real estate tax hike to subsidize the financial shortfall of District 102. If our district will increase expenses on account of its withdrawal from LADSE like Hinsdale did, where will it obtain the money for these additional costs?

When presenting financial reports to the Board concerning a LADSE withdrawal, the school district did not include several financial considerations in the analysis. For instance, the analysis fails to include Health Insurance and Pension fund contributions for new employees. Moreover, there will be a 15% reduction in the cost of LADSE services next school year due to retirement incentives for 17 LADSE personnel, who are in their last year of 6% increases, during the 2017 Fiscal Year. This retirement incentive option ends in 2018.

Currently, LADSE provides transportation for its students. If District 102 provided the transportation currently provided by LADSE, LADSE estimates that the expenses would be approximately 84% higher than our current transportation expenses. Transportation costs were not included in the analysis to the board.

The taxpayers of District 102 voted to approve the referendum to ensure the students of the District receive a high quality education. We also want to verify that students with disabilities receive the same level of services as well. In order to ensure this, an evaluation of the costs of withdrawal from the cooperative needs to be conducted. This analysis should assume we are not cutting any services currently provided through the withdrawal, while also ensuring we can provide additional services to our most needy students.

Reviewing public documents on the Governmental Funds Expenditures of Hinsdale Township High School District 86, the cost of special education grew by $2 million the year after it withdrew from LADSE. Our community did not support a referendum to see costs rise.

We strongly advise the Board of Education to delay the vote to withdraw from the LADSE Cooperative until mid-2017, once the further information has been gathered and presented.

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