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The proposal currently under consideration calls for saving $21.9 million by reducing the number of special-needs students in nonpublic schools and by redirecting funds to support the D.C. Public Schools’ special-education capacity.

Ms. Henderson insisted that spending levels for special-education programs are not the problem and said she is working with the mayor and city financial officials “to make sure our budget is solid and financial systems correctly portray where we have areas of overspending.”

Mr. Saunders, whose union strongly backed Mr. Gray over Mr. Fenty in the Democratic mayoral primary, said actions taken at City Hall speak louder than rhetoric. City officials, he said, outline special-education reforms while at the same time firing special-education teachers and cutting resources.

“Special education is close and dear to me,” said Mr. Saunders, but the talk “we are hearing runs totally contrary to reality.”