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GOP Proposes Severe Cuts to Education—and Special Education—Budgets

GOP Proposes Severe Cuts to Education—and Special Education—Budgets

Special education, usually a Republican priority, could face cuts of $557 million, if a bill introduced by House Republicans last Friday passes.

 

Says EdWeek:

 

The measure, which would continue federal funding for rest of the fiscal year, takes aim at some programs that were previously considered untouchable, including special education spending and Pell Grants to help low-and-moderate income students pay for college. Overall it would cut $4.9 billion from the U.S. Department of Education’s fiscal year 2010 budget of $63.7 billion.

“This absolutely would be the largest cuts ever in history for education programs,” said Joel Packer, a principal with the Raben Group in Washington, who works with the Committee for Education Funding, a coalition that advocates for increasing education spending.

Programs that would be ‘scrapped entirely’ include: Even Start Family Literacy program ($66.5 million); Striving Readers program ($250 million); Literacy Through School Libraries ($19 million). In additional, earmarked funds for the Special Olympics, Recordings for the Blind and Dyslexic, and Rehabilitation Services and Disability Research, will be cut.

You can read the full list of cuts to education and other departments here.  

It’s unlikely the cuts will make it through the Senate, which is currently controlled by Democrats.  But the very mention of cuts to special education suggests that parents and disability advocates need to get ready to defend the programs and services that make a huge difference in the lives of so many.

For over a decade, while hearing about a multitude of other medical, biomedical, dietary, and alternative treatments for autism, my husband Jim Fisher and I have steadfastly insisted that education is our priority in preparing Charlie for the future.  Not providing children with disabilities with an appropriate education is—I can’t state it more simply—foolhardy at best. My son’s experiences offer a case in point. 

I’m writing this post while preparing for my son Charlie’s annual Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meeting. Charlie is on the moderate to severe end of the autism spectrum and has always required special education services. He has very limited language and communication skills, a history of extremely difficult behavior issues (including self-injurious behaviors), and many academic and cognitive challenges. He can read a few sight words and so some very rudimentary arithmetic. He writes his name rather illegibly. 

Charlie has had quite an educational odyssey over the past decade and, at some points, has had so many behavior issues that one school district’s behavior consultant starting talking about a ‘temporary residential placement.’ After many years of struggling to have him attend a self-contained special education program in a public school (with a student-to-teacher ratio of 1::1), just over a year ago my husband and I knew that Charlie would be better off attending a county center where all the students have disabilities (autism, cerebral palsy, and other diagnoses). After a very difficult start, Charlie has settled into his school and likes it and his teachers very much. Furthermore, his behavior issues at home have lessened. 

Charlie turns 14 in May and will be moving up to a secondary-level classroom where the emphasis will be increasingly on vocational training. This is a focus that we welcome, as it prepares Charlie for the rest of his life—though be assured, I could never have said this to you when my boy was first diagnosed with autism in July of 1999, or when we learned that Charlie would not be able to attend a kindergarten classroom, as the extent of his disabilities necessitated that he remain in a special education setting. But the first lessons Charlie learned–to look at his teacher and listen—have made it possible for him to learn skills like stocking shelves, assembling items, janitorial skills. Without years of education, by trained teachers and therapists, he would not have the skills he does and, most likely, not be able to talk. And he would not be living with us.

Training Charlie and individuals with disabilities to have jobs, to take care of themselves, and to live as independently as possible does require having adequate levels of staffing, appropriate programs, and facilities and transportation. All of these things require spending money now and, yes, sometimes they require a lot funding. It is always funds well spent: Far better to pay for special education now so, instead of having to pay tens of thousands of dollars for life in an institutional placement where individuals require round-the-clock-care, kids like Charlie can grow up living with their families and be ready to have jobs and make their contribution to society.

 

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Photo by lynnefeatherstone.

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56 comments

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7:44PM PST on Mar 9, 2011

And on and on -- Shameful. I guess this fits right into the repub's agenda of a future generation of uneducated Americans, who can be led by the nose by sound-bytes and vote repub, the Party of the Stupid and Uncaring.

4:56AM PST on Feb 18, 2011

Welcome to the Dark Ages. With the so many American kids emerging from school barely able to read ,write or spell or
understand the most basic maths , it's not surprising that
their Chinese compatriots are overtaking them in every field.
And sadly, as always, it is those from the lower income classes,along with students with special needs or handicaps
who will suffer most.What sort of future is being created for the young people of this country ,the sweet land of liberty,land
of the proud and free?' Not any longer, while the doors to
greater wisdom and understanding are being locked behind them one by one......

4:17PM PST on Feb 17, 2011

Faux News/gop/t-bagger's New Motto:

Keeping your Kids Ignorant for the 20th Century!

9:15AM PST on Feb 16, 2011

You'd think that Sarah Palin would be up in arms about this what with her mentally disabled kid. And the more they cut abortion funding and make it harder for women to access them, the more special children will be born. The handicapped population will go up due to more chemically compromised, low nutrition, high stress pregnancies. And more of the handicapped babies will be unwanted ones on top of all that. Cutting special ed and cutting abortion out of the same budget makes no sense. I would do neither myself, but the same nuts who are always yelling about "saving babies" ought to care about children, don't you think? But they don't.

6:15AM PST on Feb 16, 2011

This is stupid, short-term thinking. Someone with a basic level of education is more likely to get a job, however lowly, thus not needing social services. But maybe there won't be any, if other cuts go ahead.

5:44AM PST on Feb 16, 2011

the reich wing nut jobs have been historically opposed to education - an educated populace is capable of thinking which adds to embarrassing questions for the reich wingers to stumble answering.

5:41AM PST on Feb 16, 2011

the reich wingnuts are afraid of an educated populace. Too many tough questions to deal with.

5:49PM PST on Feb 15, 2011

Randi L. and a few others must know that te stakes are very hih for our nation. Others share by volunteering here and there. A better use of these vital resources can more than offset the budget shortfalls. We have our wake-up call now the word needs to get out and back up to Obama. He can detail good people to s in the field to augment and motivate the most promising to return to mainstream routes to improve their opportunities to succeed.

4:36PM PST on Feb 15, 2011

Y'all don't need no ed-i-cashun to scrub dem floors, and tote dem bales...
Let's see now, they don't want to pay for social services out of "their' pockets, yet they don't want people to get eduated and earn enough money so they don't need those services. Now, that's just about as clear as mud!!!

4:26PM PST on Feb 15, 2011

So, let's get the money for education from the wealthy. Sheesh! This is so messed up.

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Kristina Chew Kristina Chew teaches ancient Greek, Latin and Classics at Saint Peter's University in New Jersey.... more
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