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Lynch School of Education

Supporting Special Education Teacher Retention

Legislators, parents, and staff meet at Boston College
Legislators, parents, and staff meet at Boston College

CHESTNUT HILL, MA (Jan. 31, 2013) -- Teacher retention in private special education schools is a tremendous challenge. According to a new report published last month, the reason comes down to dollars and cents.

On Monday, January 27th the Boston College Campus School at the Lynch School of Education hosted a legislative meeting to discuss the need for increased funding to support special education, especially in terms of supporting the salaries of special needs educators.

Jim Major, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Association of 766 Approved Private Schools (MAAPS), served as the keynote speaker. MAAPS represents the 86 private school organizations in Massachusetts approved by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to enroll publically funded students with special needs.

“Our member schools provide highly specialized education and treatment programs to approximately 5,300 public students with special needs from Massachusetts. Due to restrictive tuition pricing policies, 70% of our school programs operate at a deficit,” Major said. “In fiscal year 2011 our schools lost over 25.2 million dollars. Our members offset this shortfall through private donors, fundraising, and higher cost tuitions, but  our member organizations still cannot pay staff salaries that can compete with those in public schools; nor do our staff have access to the state public school retirement system. This results in less licensed teachers at our schools than in public schools and a substantially lower rate of teacher retention.”

Major, along with Don Ricciato, Executive Director of the Boston College Campus School, called for legislators to support funding for MAAPS through House Docket #1208, an act prohibiting the Commonwealth from discriminating against those providing educational, custodial, and other human services to those in need of attending private schools or living in private residential schools. The bill would also establish annual tuition prices.

“Support of this bill would provide those working at private schools for students with special needs access to the state retirement systems and help schools like our to retain teachers,” Ricciato said.

Major supported the argument for House Docket #1208 through the recently published “Bottom Line Report.” The report shows that MAAPS school costs are 35% less than school districts and educational collaboratives that offer similar services. Additionally it shows that state tax payers pay public school and collaborative fringe benefit costs for public schools at a rate of 37%, compared to 24% for MAAPS schools; and they subsidize public school pension payments by $107 million a year for public school pension costs, $8.5 million a year for collaborative pension costs, compared to no cost for MAAPS schools.  

“The report not only shows the need for funding, but also shows the value that MAAPS schools provide to the Commonwealth,” Ricciato added.

The meeting also featured parent testimonials of how the Campus School had impacted their lives.

“My son is more than a dollar amount, he is a little boy. As a little boy he deserves an education, and to know how to make decisions, and to be a part of a community,” Lori Cutillo, a Campus School mother said.

“The teachers at the Campus School deal with more emotionally [than teachers at public schools], put in more hours, attend more funerals, and visit us in the hospital. So when I hear that we are losing good people because of funding I literally feel sick,” said Kristen Morin another Campus School mother.

The entire Bottom Line Report can be accessed at the MAAPS website.  

The Boston College Campus School, located within the Lynch School of Education educates students aged 3 to 21 with multiple disabilities, including complex health care needs. The program provides student-centered educational and therapeutic services in a school-based setting. Using a transdisciplinary approach, student growth is achieved through the development of a stimulating environment and challenging instruction tailored to the needs of the individual.

The Massachusetts Association of 766 Approved Private Schools (MAAPS) was founded in 1975 as a statewide association of approved private special education schools dedicated to providing educational programs and services to students with special needs. MAAPS members are approved by the Mass. Dept. of Elementary and Secondary Education under the state’s special education law, Chapter 766. MAAPS represents 86 member schools serving approximately 7000 children with special needs from Massachusetts, other states and countries.