Yesterday, just before President Obama’s State of the Union address, Republican freshman Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) unveiled his own plan to cut $500 billion from the federal budget in a single year. The plan is (depending on your point of view) sweeping or draconian, as it calls for the elimination of
- the Department of Energy
- the National Endowment for the Arts
- the National Endowment for the Humanities
Meaning, there goes special education. A free and appropriate public education is only guaranteed to children with disabilities under the Individuals with Disabilities Act, which is under the US Department of Education. Without IDEA—without the Department of Education’s legislation about special education—-my son and thousands of children with disabilities (including Tea Party leader Sarah Palin’s own young son Trig, who has Down Syndrome) will be denied an education and therefore, a future that involves something beside living in an institution.
Paul’s plan does not specifically mention IDEA or special education, but it would hurt children and individuals with disabilities on many fronts, as the senator also calls for serious reductions in funding for the Department of Health and Human Services, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration. He does not propose to touch Social Security between now and the end of the fiscal year.
As Talking Points Memo notes, ‘a plan like this was the essence of [Paul's], and other tea party-backed campaigns in 2010.’ The fact that Sen. Paul would propose such a defunding and de facto elimination of Department of Education programs says that, according to him, children with disabilities have no right to an education that is appropriate to needs. It means turning back the clock to, indeed, an ‘earlier, simpler’ time in this country’s history when literally nothing—nothing at all—was done to educate children with disabilities.
I guess we should see reports about Sarah Palin cutting funding for special education by 62% during her tenure as a (half-term) governor of Alaska as a sign of what’s to come. — UPDATE: The Washington Monthly notes that the report that Palin had cut special education by 62% was erroneous, due to a change in how funding for the Alaska Challenge Youth Academy was broken out into its own budget category. More about Palin and disability issues here.
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Photo by Gage Skidmore [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.