Federal law requires that schools do not reduce support for special education. School can reduce support, but if and when they do they face penalties. The Federal Government has never lived up to its obligation to pay for 40% of the costs of special education. This results in the view by some school officials that special education is an unfunded mandate.
Here’s a hint: education is an unfunded mandate. Education for all is required by law and not paid by the federal government.
Why write about this now? Because of a guest column to a small newspaper in Southern Illinois: Mark Lounsberry: Special-education costs can’t continue.
Mr. Lounsberry is a former president of their board of education. He decrys the costs of special education. In discussing laws which require localities to educate their students, he notes:
The most draining of these are the special-education statutes, both federal and state.
They require costly individualized educational plans for the mentally, physically and learning-disabled. Failure to comply invites lawsuits and withdrawal of funding.
Yes, if they don’t educate special needs children they lose funding. If they don’t educate non special education students they will face lawsuits and loss of funding as well.
Mr. Lounsberry feels that behavior disorders are sapping the budget:
These days behavior disorders are included as a part of special-education programs. Most of these problems are a direct result of our crumbling family structure and have swelled the enrollment of special education.
Yes. Bad family structure leads to special education. Bruno Bettleheim is invoked too often in online discussions, in my opinion. But this time we are seeing shades of Bettleheim.
He also notes:
When our budget is reduced and the state does not meet its financial responsibility to our district, we still are required to meet 100 percent of the financial needs of our special-education students.
Small correction (OK, not small): they are required to meet the educational needs of their special education students, not their financial needs.
And, now for the value judgement:
For those not protected by mandate, including our best and brightest, who presumably will be our community leaders and problem solvers, the resources are disproportionately reduced.
Yes. Those who are not in special education are the “best”.
I can’t wait for one of them to grow up and take over the leadership position Mr. Lounsberry appears to leave vacant with his presence.
In case you think I’m stretching the value judgement statement above:
Our education tax dollars would be easier to manage if not burdened with expenses that are more suited for social welfare.
How did someone so ignorant about education become the president of the school board? Seriously?
OK, disabled children are a “burden” to him and do not deserve to be educated. Instead they are a social welfare situation. (why do I doubt he would be willing to pay tax money for the social welfare of the disabled?)
He concludes with:
Education budgets are voted down and local school boards are told to spend dollars more wisely while they have little control over how they must spend their money.
Spending money to educate children is spending it wisely, Mr. Lounsberry. Spending money to educate “the best” as well as the disabled.
This sort of ignorance is precisely why we had no education for the disabled for most of our history. It is only in my lifetime that we as a people recognized our responsibility. Without federal laws protecting special education funding, the Mr. Lounsberrys of the world would eject those with special needs to the (non existent) social welfare system.
By Matt Carey