Saturday, June 5, 2010

OK, A Rant

Society is getting nastier and nastier. There was a time when it was OK to have a special needs child in society. The number of persons who resented your child getting an education had dissipated and your child had been welcome into the fold. But lately, as the economy worsens and cuts have to be made to school budgets all over the country the powers that be are targeting special needs programs. In fact the Superintendent of the LA School System actually came out and said that special needs children take away much needed funds from regular education children. I am sorry but when did special education students stop being person’s entitled to an education? When did our children stop being entitled to support and comfort in society? When did they once again become throw away human beings?

I actually heard this here in my town from especially the elderly. They think that they don’t have to pay taxes to support society. They think that since they raised their children they don’t have to pay to help raise anyone else’s, but they think we should continue to give into the social security system to fund their old age. I have to tell you, I have two parents on social security. What I pay into the system, I would so much prefer to just be able to give to my parents. I know, I know, we are supposed to be investing in our own old age. Well if you believe that I have a bridge in Brooklyn I would like to sell you. (No, I am not going to go on a political rant.) But I do find it interesting how there are so many people today who don’t mind taking from society, but they refuse to see that as long as they are a part of the community they owe something to the community. It’s me, me, me time and I have never seen anything like it. Personally I have never minded paying my taxes (and neither have my elderly parents). What I want is for the taxes to not be thrown away on nonsense (or pork-barrel patronage and an unnecessary bureaucracy) but to be used to make society a better place.

I actually had an argument, well sort of an argument; with an elderly woman who just found out that the school district sends children to expensive boarding schools for special needs children. She complained that they didn’t have to send the children to the best boarding schools. Why couldn’t they send the children to something that is just OK and doesn’t cost the community so much? I tried to explain to her how the system worked and that you need to place a child where they will flourish, not where they will get worse. Of course, none of the children sent out of district are her grandchildren, but she never thought of that. I wonder how she would have liked to send her needy grandchild to a mediocre school. But then when it’s not about yours you really don’t care.

I can also bet that many people feel this way as well, they just don’t approach me (those that know me, know about the boys) or talk about it in public. It’s not politically correct to resent those with special needs and if one thing is certain about this town I live in, they are all trying very hard to be politically correct. Too bad that doesn’t follow through to not ignoring your presence on the street. Do they think I like that my son has a meltdown so bad in class that he has to be removed to the nurse because his anxiety has ratcheted itself up so right before finals that he can’t help himself? Do they think we have parties to celebrate their issues and try to connive ways to take away funding from regular education students? Do they think that it is easy to try to figure out how to your help your child when nothing is working? Do they understand the fear we live with day in and day out about whether everything will truly be OK and the children will have a full life? But they don’t care. All they know is that “little Susie” didn’t get into Harvard and it has to be someone else’s fault.

Then again this begs the question-why is it so easy for people to blame our children’s education for the economic debacle we find ourselves in? Is it because our children are there? Is it because our children will have the meltdowns and problems that may interrupt a class and prevent “little Susie” from getting into Harvard? Because we all know that it isn’t Susie’s fault that she didn’t get into an Ivy League college. It had to be the fault of the special needs child in the school. It just couldn’t’ be that Susie is well, stupid.

Listen I live in a hyper Type-A community where 99% of the students go on to a four-year college and the other 1% go to community college. This is a pressure cooker of a town with overbearing helicopter parents and demanding academic curriculum. What is expected of the students in this town is far and above what is required for a normal regent’s exam and it is felt the moment these children enter school. The people in this town are pushy and obnoxious and feel that everything is owed to them. They do resent paying for special education even though it is only 2% of the budget. Why did we stay? Because the services here are the best offered anywhere in the area. They do a great job of educating all the children, and truthfully any education done well is all very expensive.

Here is what I don’t get. The amount of money spent on special education for the most part is nothing compared to other parts of the budget process. I never hear that the community resents paying health care of the teachers or their pension or paying them for not working over the summer. Now don’t get all, they are entitled to make a living, my father is a teacher right now and he had to go back to work because of the economy. Don’t go all, why don’t you help your parents out on me either? I have enough guilt over that one myself. But between the immense loss of income, therapies and support of two autistic children and college payments and another tuition on the way, I can’t help my parents to the extent that they need help. My parents needed another salary on top of the social security. (They lost their entire savings and IRA when the economy went belly-up)

The idea that special education takes away from regular education student is also nonsense. For every dollar not spent in the classroom the rest is spent on the bureaucracy. The question is why do they need so many paper pushers and why can’t less people do the work? If the School Boards really cared about the children under their care, they would review their hiring and firing policies. They would streamline the system. But then there would be no patronage for your friends who helped you out and you would not be able to pat yourselves on the back for a job well done. The truth is the school budget in my town, over 75% is for teacher salaries and benefits. Only 2% is for special education. The rest of the budget goes to everything else, including the electric bills.

I know that in society we are all stressed and that we need to blame someone. But the idea that you blame those who are at no fault for their disability is beyond me? I can see being angry at a smoker who gets lung cancer and those that are extremely overweight who develop diabetes. These are things that a person can control and are aware of the outcomes from their actions. But for society to resent taking care of the most helpless among them is something I never did understand.

I can’t decide whether people in society are just becoming meaner or whether they had had it hidden away really well for decades while society basked in the glory of easy credit and unwarranted mortgages. I have no idea where this nastiness comes from. They say that the hardest times show you the true face of society. Well personally I don’t like the society I find myself in. Unfortunately I also don’t think it’s going to change any time soon.

Until next time,