Midvale School for the Gifted Alumni Association

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Red Herring

"Palin Promises Choice for Disabled Students"

Here's the thing with this campaign promise; it is the first step in dismantling public education. It's a Trojan Horse of policy. It looks like an unbelievably generous and forward thinking policy. But, it's really the first inroad to vouchers for all students, and would deal a crushing blow to public education for ALL students.

You might be a little confused at why I, a public school special education administrator, AND school committee member, is thumbing her nose at this proposal. Well, I'll tell you. It's smoke and mirrors. The promise to fund special education at its mandate 40% has been promised by every administration since the passage of IDEA (the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), and they haven't been able to get it done. This administration won't either, and if they do, it will be at the expense of these students' typically developing peers. You can't educate one and not the other.

Two, take a look at this quote:
Case law on special education has generally said that parents of students with special needs must allow the public school to try to educate those students; if the school or a state administrator decides that the education is not appropriate, the public school must pay for private schools. About seven million students receive special-education services nationwide, with about 70,000 attending private schools. (source)

There is a reason that percentage is so small. Private, special needs schools FREQUENTLY and COMMONLY are not required to hire LICENSED special education teachers. Public school districts ARE, and, in the case of Massachusetts, all teachers need to have MASTERS DEGREES in the subjects they teach in order to be fully licensed. Many private special education schools are filled to the rafters with educators who COULDN'T GET jobs in the public sector, and you want us to pay for our students to be educated by sub-standard educators we wouldn't hire ourselves? Now, this is not the case for all teachers, and there are many sub-standard educators in public settings as well. But, in the case of completely private special education schools, the dearth of licensed teachers is astounding. The very students we want the best trained, most highly qualified and prepared teachers for are going to be shuttled into settings where there's NO REQUIREMENT FOR LICENSURE AT ALL? Please... spare me.

In addition, at least here in Massachusetts, the special education regulations allow parents to sue for those settings everywhere. If you track those settlements, you'll notice that they often skew to the parents' favor, at least 60/40, sometimes more. Surprised I had those at my fingertips? A special education administrator in this day and age would be foolish not to.

Finally, one of the most common complaints I hear from parents about their CHILDREN WITH DISABILITIES (not special needs students--they're STUDENTS and CHILDREN first), is that they lack opportunities to interact with their typically developing peers. Most research on generalizing skills for students with disabilities points to the opportunity to practice those skills in regular education settings as one of the top ways to solidify those skills. If we start shuttling off our students with the greatest need into private settings with no regularly developing peers, how are they going to learn to function in a world that requires them to be as "typically developing" as possible? Plus, take that thought to its extreme end, and we're creating a segregated educational system all over again, or WORSE, a thinly veiled, sanitized, system of instititutions, which, if I remember correctly, was what the Chapter 766 laws were designed to eliminate to begin with.

Smoke and mirrors, people. Don't believe the hype.


Blogger trusty getto said...

A choice? You mean, to not be disabled anymore?

1:07 PM  
Blogger Erik said...

Well parsed and a really good example of the double speak the Repubs are so enamored of.

1:26 AM  

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