Obama’s State of the Union Address 2011

26 Jan

Last night Barack Obama gave the annual “State of the Union” address to the American people. I have to admit, I missed it, so I waited for a transcript to come out. I searched for “autism”. I searched for “disability”. I found nothing. I searched for “education”. There was much on education, but nothing about special education. OK, there wasn’t anything on autism, disability or special education in 2010’s speech either. I don’t think it was in 2009 either.

Aside from my own interests, why would I look to these speeches for mention of autism or disability or special education? It’s because I remember the promises made on the campaign trail. I remember the disability plan that the Obama/Biden campaign had then.

I remember the promise to fully fund the federal government’s commitment to special education:

Fully Funding the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act: Barack Obama has been a strong and consistent advocate for fully funding the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Congress promised to shoulder 40 percent of each state’s “excess cost” of educating children with disabilities, but it has never lived up to this obligation. Currently, the federal government provides less than half of the promised funding (17 percent). Children are being shortchanged, and their parents are forced to fight with cash-strapped school districts to get the free and appropriate education the IDEA promises their children. Fully funding IDEA will provide students with disabilities the public education they have a right to, and school districts will be able to provide services without cutting into their general education budgets. In addition to fully funding IDEA, Barack Obama and Joe Biden will ensure effective implementation and enforcement of the Act.

IDEA is still not fully funded. The economic stimulus funds did give a one-year boost to IDEA funding (not 100% funded, but a lot more than usual). No long term commitment to keep higher levels has come through.

I remember autism being prominent in the plan:

Supporting Americans Living with Autism Spectrum Disorders: More than one million Americans live with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a complex neurobiological condition that has a range of impacts on thinking, feeling, language, and the ability to relate to others. As diagnostic criteria broaden and awareness increases, more cases of ASD have been recognized across the country. Barack Obama and Joe Biden believe we need to research treatments and search for the causes of ASD. Obama has been a strong supporter of more than $1 billion in federal funding for ASD research on the root causes and treatments. Barack Obama and Joe Biden believes we must work to guarantee that Americans with ASD can live independent and fully productive lives and to assure that their families understand and are able to support a loved one with ASD. They will fully fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act to ensure that no child with ASD or any other disability is left behind. They will also fight to assure that the government and our communities work together to provide a helping hand to people with ASD and their families.

Obama has a long record supporting people with ASD. In the state senate, Obama sponsored legislation that became law to create the ASD Program – a systems development initiative designed to promote the implementation of evidence-based practices. And in the U.S. Senate, Obama is also a cosponsor of a measure that would expand federal funding for life-long services for people with ASD, authorizing approximately $350 million in new federal funding for key programs related to treatments, interventions and services for both children and adults with ASD.

More money has gone into research, especially a big one-year boost from the economic stimulus funds.

The Obama/Biden campaign had an autism specific agenda document, which included an individual to oversee federal autism efforts:

Appoint Federal ASD Coordinator to Oversee All Federal ASD Efforts: Barack Obama and Joe Biden will ensure all federal ASD activities occur in an efficient manner that prioritizes both research and supports for families affected by ASD. They will appoint a Federal ASD Coordinator to oversee federal ASD research and federal efforts to improve awareness of ASD and improve the training of medical professionals to identify and treat ASD. By establishing one top-level point person to coordinate ASD efforts in the White House, they will ensure that ASD receives the recognition and priority it deserves in the federal government. The Federal ASD Coordinator will also be tasked with eliminating bureaucratic obstacles that may be delaying implementation of important ASD measures and ensuring that all federal ASD dollars are being spent in a manner that prioritizes results. The Coordinator will work with state task forces on ASD to ensure effective communication and collaboration among federal, state, and local agencies.

I remember these things. I bet a lot of readers here do too. We remember. We vote.

4 Responses to “Obama’s State of the Union Address 2011”

  1. Leila January 26, 2011 at 17:24 #

    The State of the Union address cannot touch on every important issue. The president has a certain amount of time to speak and he has to prioritize according to the most pressing political issues of the time. Right now the bad economy is the main concern; and the president also has to respond to the relentless attacks from the opposition regarding the health care law, tax cuts, spending, etc. The education part of the speech came in the context of the economy as well – how can the US stay competitive and innovate without a strong basis in education, such as in the Asian countries. So, the fact that special education wasn’t mentioned in the SOTU doesn’t mean the administration is not taking it seriously.

    • Sullivan January 26, 2011 at 18:54 #

      Leila,

      it is a bit disingenuous of me to expect mention in the state of the union address, I admit. But I’ve been thinking about Mr. Obama’s record at the half-way point since last fall. November was 2 years since election day. We are about 2 years since inauguration.

      There have been some successes. More funding for research. Stimulus funds for special ed. But, one reason I supported Mr. Obama was that he made concrete recommendations. He hasn’t made good on those. It is hard to fully fund IDEA during a downturn–but this is precisely the time when we need it. School budgets are tight. Schools are looking to special education as a way to reduce budgets.

  2. Clay January 27, 2011 at 06:26 #

    He hasn’t made good on a lot of promises. And extending the tax cuts for the millionaires has just about ripped it with me.

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