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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.