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Thursday, July 05, 2007

Channel 5 is Asking the wrong questions about Educational Funding

Overview added for Disability Blog Carnival:

Often the media in it's mad amoral quest for ratings and sensationalism gets the story all wrong. Below is my experience with Channel 5 who are asking questions about educational funding for disabilities. Had they done their research versus just skipping stones they could have easily gone to our government's educational budget site and found that Disability funding which includes education for kids like Ellie is in a totally separate universe than education funding. They also would have found out that Ellie's town that sends her to an all special needs school gets reimbursed about 90% of the cost and then some. So it is even possible that they are spending less to send Ellie to school than the typical kids to the typical school down the road that we tried so hard to make work for Ellie.

Crappy reporting like this that is ill researched and biased to begin with only does more harm than good. So there you have your average Joe watching Channel 5's report and thinking those damn handicappers, what do they really need school for anyway and to think my kid has to wear the same football uniform two years in a row because all the money is taken up by special needs.....gRRRRRR . Channel 5 - get some scruples! And if you are going to be asking questions about all of this - ask the right ones.

Here is the original post:

Today the Channel 5 news team, who are doing a piece on special education and the main streaming trend, interviewed me.

I did the interview because Ellie’s school asked me and if there is one place I want to give back to it’s her school. I thought their story was going to be about discussing the need for special education and the issues around mainstreaming kids like Ellie. What it turned out to be about was money. I don’t know why this surprised me, because, you know, money is what makes the world go round, etc. But it did put me off a bit because I thought the reporter and the producer were not asking the right questions.

Instead of asking: (For the record - I am paraphrasing these questions and in some cases the implied question and the underlying issue).

Do you think we should be spending so much money on special education when teachers are getting fired and sports programs are being cut?

I think we need to be asking:

Why is it that so much of the Federal budget goes to war versus supporting our schools and the future of our country through properly educating our children?

Instead of asking:

How do you feel about the fact that money is being taken away from “our best and our brightest” to fund special education?

I think we need to be asking:

How do you feel about the fact that the state and federal governments have been continuously cutting back on school funding for the last 20 years? And how do you feel about the fact that you don't even rudimentally understand how the budget works and that funding for special needs is not coming out of the federal or state educational budget! So sending Ellie to school is not taking any oney away from educational spending at the town or state level.

Instead of asking:

Are the disabled really worth educating?

We should be asking:

Why as a country do we allow for such poor, misguided, biased journalism? We should also be asking why, as a country, are we choosing to elect officials and allow for public policy that allows for the continuation of a broken public education system? Why are we, as a people, not calling for serious education reform?

I hate zero sum questions. Discussing whether we can take money from special education and use it for the football team instead is the wrong conversation to be having. Asking me whether I think Ellie is less worthy of an education than “our best and our brightest” is DEFINITELY the WRONG question to be asking.

This type of poverty of consciousness is the symptom of a particular type of fatigue that is prevalent in our society today. It’s the, well we can’t change anything at the higher levels of government, especially with Bush in office - fatigue. So let’s just assume there is a limited amount of pie and bicker over it - fatigue. It’s the our government isn’t listening at the higher levels and our domestic spending is incredibly screwed up - fatigue. It's the, there's not enough money to educate our best and our brightest so let's blow the lid off the seedy underbelly of special education - fatigue. (please tell me - what seedy underbelly?)

It’s all just so NOT what we need to be discussing. We need to be asking ourselves why do we elect officials and allow for legislation that has put our country’s educational system into a state of disrepair and poverty?

For the record, I think all children, able bodied, disabled, rich, poor, all ethnicitys, etc. – ALL - have the right to a free, high quality public education. I also understand that when I say, “free” as a taxpayer that means I am the one who will be paying my share. And I am fine with that. I was fine with that for the 20 years I worked that I paid into the system and had no children just like I am fine paying social security tax even though I am sure I will never receive any benefit from it personally. I am happy knowing that someone’s grandma is able to get health care because of my contributions. That is my social responsibility as a member of my society and I am happy for it. I don’t live in a vacuum after all.

Social responsibility that is followed by social action is what needs to be discussed when it comes to asking funding questions for our schools.

Lastly, the reporter did not realize it, but Ellie is one of the best and brightest. Too bad she couldn't see that.

The piece is coming out in October. I will let you know.


Jacqui said...

OMG. The reporters can't be serious. I'm in shock.

Kathryn said...

I think the reporters are still trying to figure out the lay of the land. But they were definitely not asking the right questions. They were trying to discuss other sources of funding - like my insurance should pay for Ellie's school. They ignored a lot of what I said about the fact that the federal government does offer some funding for school districts that are sending kids to special schools. But as you can see by the best and brightest comment I think their learning curve is somewhat steep...

Emma said...

Our new Prime Minister is disabled; he is blind in one eye and I think he has only limited vision in the other, I might be wrong about that bit. I've a feeling it was an accident when he was in his late teens. I hope that means we will lose some of that culture here but I fear it won't as I've heard it said that Mr Brown doesn't consider himself to be disabled. In a social model of disability type way that is a good thing but part of me thinks it's a shame he doesn't identify as disabled because that could do a lot to break down prejudices.

And I really wish I was shocked by your encounter with the press - the questions don't shock me but the fact they asked them of you when they must realise you have a disabled daughter does surprise me a little.

Jennifer said...

I'll be sure to check it out when it comes on!

Were you able to interject your answers as stated here or were you sort of 'stuck' answering their questions.

I was on Chronicle once as a child and they edited my interview so much it was a very shallow view of what was REALLY said...

I pray that doesn't happen to you as what you have to say is extremely important!

Lisa said...

I don't do interviews about disability anymore. I get asked every so often, but I usually refuse. Well, I might if it were from a trusted source...but when I was younger, I did several interviews for newspapers and such. And they always came out so nasuatingly inaccurate, sentimentalized, or prejudiced no matter what I said, I just don't do them anymore. I could say all these great things about disability rights and it would be miscontrued and wrapped into the context of the reporters own mindset about disability.

As for special ed funding, here is what I think. In most cases, special ed is the big fat tumor that is evidence that regular ed sucks. Now not all special ed. For example, I do see the need for specialized OT, PT, Braille instruction, and other specific services. But this whole "funding special ed at the expense of our best and brightest" bullshit is really a euphanism for our schools are all screwed up, and unless you can get educated (like our 'best and brightest' might be able to do) by walking in your sleep through a minefield for 13 years, then you are the failure...not the system. Especially in terms of your LD, BD, and ADHD type disabilities...all those services are a huge symptom of the failure of our educational system. Learn differently? Can't sit still all day when you are six? Blame the victim. Not the system.

Which is all to say, Yes. That reporter was definately asking all the wrong questions. I hope at least a little bit you were able to set him straight. But don't be surprised if your quotes are used to prove someone elses view and not your own.

Kathryn said...

Emma- I agree - they were very insensitive. Asking all kinds of personal questions about what happened to Ellie. Just incredibly RUDE and like and inquisition. They were totally at their own agendas and caring for little else.

Jennifer - I was actually pretty articulate and composed regarding my responses to them. I am sure the reporter hates me. She did not shake my hand at the end, nor thank me for my time. The school PR person was there and at the end, he did shake my hand and pretty much told me I should run for office, though I don't think I could stomach it!

I am sure they will twist everything around as a person does in a new country in which they don't know the language. What remains to be seen is how much of an idiot they make me out to be. It's too bad. Missed opportunity.

Lisa, after giving this interview which was really just pretty stressful and obnoxious, I can see why you don't do them anymore. The reporter, she, was definitely looking for a different story than the one at hand.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more - the wrong questions are being asked. The apathy and complacency with the status quo can be so discouraging. Thanks for speaking up.


Jodi said...

ooooo...I dislike being interviewed. Reporters always have a predetermined angle and they will spin their article any which way they want. It drives me crazy. I hope the interview comes out how you hoped it would. Good job advocating for our kids!

Laura said...

I think you are right about Ellie being one of the best and brightest. She is one of those children that if given the appropriate resources (particularly a good communication system that allows her to utilize her high intellectual abilities) I think she will have a lot of potential. I posted a link to this on a comment below but I think this is the type of research that will allow children like Ellie to communicate/live independent lives.

I do believe that if we wasted less money on comittees/adminstration or wasting money on non-essentials such as the case of the Canadian government wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars on useless independent art projects such as the gay porn film festival they gave a grant for few years ago or the city of Edmonton wasting millions on coming up with a slogan, there would be more money to actually help children in the education system.

I think what we really need (and lack) are programs geared to children with average-above average intellectual abilities and significant disabilities in other areas (i.e. physical, social, emotional, communication). For instance the needs of a child like Ellie would be quite different than a child with a cognitive disability if she is to meet her full potential.

Stacey said...

Holy Pete, did people really ask you that stuff?!?? Like, what? Hmm, teaching children or having a football team, let me just think about that for a second...

Kathryn said...

Laura I am with you and thanks for the link.

Stacey - yes, they actually asked me stuff like that. Ithink there were trying to get an irrate mother on camera. The reporter was pretty insensitive overall and consistently for the entire time. I felt like I was being interrogated like I had done something wrong and that we were to blame for the poor state our educational system is in.

Blog [with]tv said...

Oh my... Thank you for submitting this piece for the next Disability Blog Carnival. I'm wondering, did the article come out in October like you were anticipating? Was it as bad as you imagined? Or worse?

Kathryn said...

The TV segment did come out and they spent 95% of the time showing the interview with one of our state education leaders who is obviously not a fan of special ed funding. And like Emma's experience with her interview, they literally showed 3 words of my answer to their question. 3 words versus the hour they spent talking to me. So it was a harmful segment and very biased and poorly reported and researched. A bit of nasty, toxic fluff that many people will take for reality. Bravo Channel 5!