Wilton college student finds special education spending discrepancy

In April, Eastern Connecticut State University student Jamie Perry gave a presentation at the annual CREATE Conference.

The Wiltonian’s presentation focused on the connection between funding and the success of students receiving a special education in Connecticut. CREATE (Celebrating Research Excellence and Artistic Talent at Eastern) is an undergraduate conference for students at the university in Willimantic.

Perry, a senior sociology and early childhood education major, said the idea behind her presentation came while taking a course called sociology of education. A professor pitched her the idea of doing an in-depth research on a topic she found important — special education.

“I wasn’t prepared for it at first,” Perry said. “But when I started looking into the research I thought it would be awesome to be a part of CREATE.”

Perry then registered for her independent study and started preparing over her winter break. Using information from the Connecticut State Department of Education and edcite.com she laid the groundwork for her presentation.

“It was interesting to see how much money goes into the special education system per pupil,” she said.

From her work she found some towns spent $7,000 per pupil compared to others that spent upwards of $60,000. Her research showed the wealthier the town the higher the graduation rates for students receiving special education.

“I thought it interesting the amount of money that goes into the town kind of guarantees whether or not the special education student graduates,” Perry said.

Perry is the vice president of Best Buddies at Eastern, which is an organization that promotes inclusion for individuals with disabilities. Her personal experience with students motivated her work.

“I’ve always heard stories from students and how their education either hinders them as a student or helps them excel,” she said. “I really wanted to see per district what happens and what are some things factoring into special education students getting the best education they possibly could.”

Perry said once she graduates she looks to pursue a career in teaching. She added the information she learned could help her in her career.

“If I do go into special education, I’ll now know there’s limitations to different districts and this information is even out there,” she said.

She added it could also help her when applying for jobs.

“When it does come time for me to apply for jobs, I may look into the lower-income school districts to help make a mark and educate people,” Perry said.

Despite the long nights of preparation she said she felt nervous leading up to her presentation. However, when the time came Perry showed the results of her hard work.

“My dad said something clicked and it ‘looked like you were talking to your students in class,’” she said. “I didn’t realize I knew all this information until it came time to present it.”