OAKLAND (KPIX 5) — The Oakland Unified School District is trying to sell teachers and parents on a plan to move special education students into regular classrooms.

“It’s really an attack both on special education, but really public education,” said veteran special education teacher Mark Airgood.

The school district said that is not true and is an investment in all students. District spokesperson Troy Flint told KPIX 5, “This is really a new era.”

Oakland Unified already started putting special needs students in regular classrooms at some pilot sites. The plan is to do it in all schools in a couple of years. About 15 percent or 5,500 students in the district are in special ed.

“For students who have severe, really severe disabilities, full inclusion may not be an option. But we’re going to give them as much as they can handle. We’re going to challenge them,” Flint said.

“To put those students in classes of 32 and expect to have their needs met, I think, is really not viable,” Airgood said.

Airgood said his students need one on one attention, not the sink or swim approach. “It’s all about saving money,” he said.

Flint said the plan is not a cost-cutting strategy. “It’s actually more expensive,” he said.

The district said it’ll put more trained educators and resources in those classes. Officials said changes have to be made because less than 60 percent of their special education students are graduating and only 15 percent are reading at grade level.

“Pigeonholing them or essentially segregating them in a less demanding environment is really depriving kids of what they deserve,” Flint said.

“We’ll see more dropouts, more failure if these programs are eliminated,” Airgood said.

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