A policy brief reveals that there are too many Hispanic children considered "disabled" in Arizona, mainly in districts where the majority of pupils are anglo.
The Goldwater Institute presented an exclusive policy brief identifying 40 school districts and charter schools with high proportions of Hispanic children classified as "learning disabled."
According to the scholar Matthew Ladner, who compiled the information from a total of 437 districts within the state, the numbers reflect that there are too may Hispanic children classified as learning disabled in Arizona, mainly in districts where the majority of pupils are anglo.
Ladner specified that the list is not an accusation but is simply meant to call attention to those schools that find themselves with a proportion of Hispanic students in special education 40 percent higher than the overall state average.
Learning disabilities, according to the study, are subjective classifications that in many occasions can be confused with actual clinical conditions.
Ladner explained that the disparate treatment and segregation of Hispanics in special education may be due to the fact that the state of Arizona has a "bounty" system that awards funds to school districts for each student classified with a learning disability.
According to Ladner, the system gives schools indirect incentives to classify students as disabled, so he suggests modifying it through the use of a system wherein the state gives districts money in lump sums, rather than by student.
According to Vickie Murray, education analyst at the Goldwater Institute, Arizona could save up to $50 million if the system were to be modified.
Elsewhere, Ladner said that the high percentage of Hispanics labeled "disabled" in majority-anglo districts could be due to cultural differences, but it does not necessarily reflect the presence of racial prejudice.
The briefing paper expands upon a report published in March of this year, also by Ladner, titled Separate and Unequal: Race and Discrimination in Special Education in Arizona.
That study indicated that children are often classified as "learning disabled" when in fact what they have are "teaching deficiencies" that can be overcome.
For many children, being classified as learning disabled negatively impacts their future academic performance, the study said.
At the present time in Arizona [the bounty system may account for] more than 8,400 children designated "learning disabled" from kindergarten to 12 years of age, among a total of more than 87,000 statewide.
The Goldwater Institute was established in 1988 as an organization dedicated to the study of policy reform in Arizona.