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Philadelphia Approves Scaled-Back $10 Million Special Education Program

After special-education advocates criticized Philadelphia's plan to create a $54 million separate program for students with disabilities, the city's school reform commission voted unanimously Thursday to approve a $10 million contract to start a school that will serve 100 special education students. 

Kristen Graham with the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the commission's original plan was to create a program for 600 special education students who are now being educated in private schools. Opponents said that the commission was creating a segregated school, and that the money would be better spent on helping children integrate into less-restrictive settings. 

The commission, on the other hand, said that the new program was needed to get students out of restrictive settings such as Wordsworth Academy, a private provider for children with emotional and behavioral disturbances. David Hess, a 17-year-old from Lebanon, Pa., died at a Wordsworth residential treatment facility in 2016 after he was restrained and punched by staffers. The facility has since closed and Wordsworth Academy has filed for bankruptcy

The new program will be run by Catapult Learning, with the goal of transitioning the program to school district staff, the Inquirer reported.

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