I planned on taking the week off from writing my blog since my son with a learning disability is off from school, but that was before I read Education Week’s most recent article, “Even on IDEA's 35th, Special Ed Dollars Aren't Free.” Education week claims to be America’s education newspaper and website of record, but clearly doesn’t represent one of the largest portions of the student age population, the Special Education Demographic. Did you know that more than 13% of all students in the United States receive special education? This represents more than 6 million students across the United States. If you haven’t read Education Week’s rebel rousing article, I think this quote sums it up best:
“As we try to better serve children with special needs, it's vital to recognize that we don't have endless resources--and that open-ended promises to some mean stripping resources away from others.”
This statement is clearly written by someone that hasn’t taken the time or made the effort to read or research the Individual’s with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). IDEA does not make an open ended promise and only requires that special education students receive a Free APPROPRIATE Public Education. The main purpose of the above quote is to evoke a reaction of discrimination towards special education students and bring more readers to Education Week. Special Education doesn’t strip services away from others. Services are being stripped away because School Districts are mismanaged and rather than blame themselves they have made Special Education into the scapegoat of the day. The author of the column even knows what he is doing because he goes on to say:
“Now, past experience teaches that this little post will garner more than the usual amount of irate comments from the very organized, very sympathetic special needs lobby--but this really shouldn't register as a radical plea.”
Of course, it should register as a radical plea. The article is asking the general public to discriminate against the Special Education population out of ignorance for the law. The purpose of IDEA is “to ensure that all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment and independent living 1400 (d)(1)(A)”. There is no open ended promises and the law is specifically trying to invest in the special education population today rather than wait until it’s too late and they need to pay even more in the future.
The real problem with special education is how the School Districts are choosing to spend their money. A large amount of money is being spent by School Districts on legal fees to skirt their responsibility under IDEA. If they spent that money on additional training for their staff there would be no reason for these large legal fees. Did you know when reauthorizing IDEA in 2004 Congress found that, “high quality, comprehensive professional development programs are essential to ensure that the persons responsible for the education or transition of children with disabilities possess the knowledge and skills necessary to address the educational and related needs of those children”? All children can learn. Let me say it again, all children can learn. There are some great teachers out there but even the best teacher needs to be trained on proven, research-validated, alternative and reliable methods of teaching.
It’s the same old story, when budgets are robust everyone’s happy but as soon as budgets begin to shrink who can we blame for our problems. Unfortunately, the Special Education population becomes the easiest target to discriminate against. I hope you will join me in boycotting Education Week. If you are one of their 30,000 plus followers on twitter please stop following them. The great thing about the United States is that while we are all allowed free speech there are also repercussions that come along with that free speech. Let’s show Education Week there are repercussions to discrimination.