Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Buy Books, Not bombs (or at least save some money for education)

As districts go to new lengths to provide services, current budget cuts, and the looming end to the Education Job Fund, one can't help but be upset and worried about the future of special education. Thankfully, IDEA does a decent job in mandating what is required, but one may wonder how far the reach of IDEA can actually extend into local school districts. Sure, the federal government may step in and say "This is what needs to happen to our exceptional learners," but coercion breeds contempt and resistance. Schools who have financial hardships, who are overpopulated and understaffed, are not going to take the time necessary to help their learner's with exceptionalities.  We've seen this in Connecticut. And when I worked in Connecticut in 2008, I recall hearing that as the results of PJ v. BOE were being more strongly implemented, and there was a sincere dread by administrators at having more and more exceptional students being included.

The point is this. As federal money dries up, education will falter. Pensions get cut, staff gets downsized, and students get less attention. However, what is worse, is the limbo that our students will fall into. They will receive less support when they need it most, and then, when they get older, will need even more support that cannot be afforded, and may be outsourced out of their home school due to serious needs. Or, they may simply be pushed through the motions. Both are bunk options. The toll this takes on the school system and families is enormous. The highest figure I have heard thus far for a residential outplacement is $300,000 a year. Some of this cost may be burdened by insurance, but the residential component will definitely fall on the shoulders of the family. And the cost of educating the student is fully taken on by the school system. So, in the end, the same school system that failed the learner by not being able to provide early intervention services and supports due to a lack of financing, now is paying out the wazoo to outplace.

Given the above image, you may be waiting for a statement on the wars, engagements, and other conflicts that global superpowers are currently engaged in. So, let me say this: War is bad, but you and I are not going to single-handedly end any wars. We can single-handedly make a difference in our learner's or children's lives. As special education faces issues with financing, we need to work even harder to affect systemic change and continue to set an example the our learners, now matter how delayed, are priority number one.

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