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MTI Issue Paper: Special Education


February 2001

Imagine . . .

  • a dentist practicing without a license
  • a surgeon operating without certification in the specialty
  • a lawyer being expected to violate professional ethics

Conditions For Special Education Teaching:
CEC Commission Technical Report, October 2000.

The findings, as reported in the Council for Exceptional Children’s two year study of the conditions for special education teaching, is a must read for teachers, administrators and parents. In 1998, the Council set out to "identify barriers that obstruct high-quality special education, and develop an action agenda that would galvanize the education community to ensure that every student with an exceptionality has a highly qualified teacher who is able to practice under optimal professional conditions and in suitable settings."

After two years of intensive research and field work, the CEC report provides accurate insight to commonly occurring situations in special education. The report found that, "Special educators face ambiguous, conflicting, and fragmented expectations from other educators, families, administrators and the public. Special educators labor under difficult conditions, in part, because the field is changing so rapidly. For many veteran teachers, the roles and responsibilities they successfully filled in the past have changed dramatically. With multiple expectations and conflicting responsibilities, the causes of the frustrations that special educators express becomes clear."

In the CEC report, special education teachers voiced critical concerns which they believe negatively impact the quality of education received by special education students. Those factors include:

  • overwhelming amounts of paperwork
  • unmanageable caseloads
  • inadequate opportunities to plan with their colleagues
  • insufficient administrative support, limited curricular and technology resources
  • Inadequate professional development opportunities

The entire Council for Exceptional Children report, "Bright Futures for Exceptional Learners: An Action Agenda to Achieve Quality Conditions for Teaching and Learning" can be obtained from the Internet at


Previously, MTI has published a series of ISSUE Papers, the focus of which has been special education. These publications: Inclusion, Spring 1996; Special Education: IDEA ’97, April 1998; and Special Education Funding, April 1999 are indexed by subject and date, and are available on MTI’s home page

Additionally, the Report of the MTI/MMSD Joint Committee to Increase Efficiencies in the IEP Process, distributed last fall to Special Education staff, set forth recommendations to increase efficiencies and assure compliance with IDEA. Many of the same concerns identified by Madison teachers were outlined in the report of the Council for Exceptional Children. The identified issues were examined and discussed by the MTI/MMSD Joint Committee on IEP Efficiencies.

The recommendations of MTI/MMSD Joint Committee on IEP Efficiencies were put forth in an Action Plan which outlined corresponding activities necessary to achieve desired outcomes, person(s) responsible for carrying out the activities, the resources needed to accomplish the desired outcomes, and targeted completion dates.


Regardless of the adversity caused by limited resources due to the State and Federal government inadequately funding special education mandates, MTI members continue to put forth exemplary efforts aimed at meeting the unique needs of every child. However, MTI cautions that teachers should access their rights and benefits which MTI has achieved in the Collective Bargaining Agreement and assure the District’s compliance with the same. Those who push too hard can burnout!

MTI’s Collective Bargaining Agreement provides teachers with rights and benefits designed to address ongoing concerns related to workloads, and provides additional compensation given the increased responsibility due to the mandates of special education policy.

MTI recommends that teachers schedule their workday to assure the rights guaranteed by the Agreement!

Look to the following provisions of the Agreement for guidance and call MTI Headquarters for assistance when necessary.

  • Section III-G-18 establishes a full teaching load (5 classes per day, or 4 classes plus a study hall, or any combination thereof).
  • Section III-Q Compensation for Performing Additive Duties in Special Education provides workload mandates for responsibilities involving IEP evaluations per school year, a process for completing evaluations which exceed the maximums set forth in the Agreement, provides additional compensation for participation in an official IEP Team meeting which extends beyond the workday to accommodate a parent’s schedule, provides release time during instructional periods, and provides extra pay during planning time or duty free lunch. IEP meetings, by Contract, are to be scheduled at times that are mutually agreeable to all IEP Team participants. The Agreement also specifies rights concerning special education policies and procedures such as referral to placement time lines, authority to refer students to an IEP evaluation with or without the approval or consultation of an existing Building Consultation Team. Clerical support is assured IEP Chairpersons who are assigned to IEPs containing more than five (5) participants (excluding the LEA Representative). Bargaining unit members (excluding PSTs) who serve as IEP Chairperson are additionally compensated at $75 per appointment. Regular education teachers need not be present throughout the entire meeting or attend every meeting. Bargaining unit members will not appoint participants to any IEP Team.

In an effort to promptly resolve special education issues at the lowest level, during the 1995-97 contract negotiations, MTI and the District Administration established a Joint Committee to examine and resolve special education issues. The resulting contractual language provides the following:

  • Section V-C-4(a) Resolutions of the Joint District-MTI Special Education Committee outlines factors to be considered by the IEP Team in determining the least restrictive environment for the child. The Agreement also mandates that the IEP of an incoming special education student not be implemented until one workday after the teachers have been provided with a copy of the IEP by a District administrator.
  • Section V-C-4-(b) Significant Concerns Regarding Behavior or Learning in General Education. If classroom teacher(s) are of the opinion that the inclusion of a student with disabilities in the general education classroom results in a significant concern regarding that students behavior or learning, the teacher(s) may request assistance from the principal. Within one workday following the day on which the request was made, the circumstances of the concern need to be examined by the student’s IEP Implementation Team and the teacher(s) who initiated the request. They will determine the procedures to remedy the situation. A teacher who disagrees with the outcome may request District conflict resolution, or mediation through the Department of Public Instruction. MTI will assist the member.
  • Section V-C-4(c) Disciplining Students with Disabilities sets forth the procedure to be implemented when a student identified with disabilities engages in misconduct which could result in his/her suspension or expulsion as referenced in the District’s discipline policy.
  • Section V-C-4(d) Special Education Training and Inservice compels the District to include this provision of support in the planning and implementation of the new cross categorical service delivery model. Teachers are required to be provided with resources and technical support to implement new instructional programming strategies for students with disabilities.

The MTI Bargaining Committee’s Sub-Committee on Special Education continues to meet monthly to listen to and develop strategies to address concerns received from MTI members. Watch for notices of meetings in MTI Solidarity. Let your voice be heard. MTI is your Union.