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Over the years I have been a Special Education teacher, I have always been concerned about what I see as an important issue that we in Special Education and those that are advocates for children with disabilities will have to face someday.
Unfortunately, the attitude against educating students with disabilities is becoming more vocal and being said beyond private conversations or when you catch people in their “cups”.
The idea that a Free and Appropriate Education alias FAPE is anathema to many people that I talk with outside of education and even some in education is concerning to me. With the forthcoming re-authorization of IDEA/NCLB coming up, how will this attitude affect changes to the laws that are in presently in place to protect and support our students.
Below are some of the major points that I have heard used when discussing educating students with disabilities:
Cost: “They” always discuss how much more it costs to educate students with disabilities, who are “never” going to be anything more than a drain on the welfare system or at best minor contributors to the tax base in their communities. Why are local school districts and local taxpayers supposed to pay for educating these kids when their parents are already receiving Social Security because they are disabled and don’t learn that much anyways? “They” discuss how there is a very poor Return On Investment or ROI when it comes to educating “those” children. I get to hear about how we should be focusing improving educational opportunities for the top 20% and stop worrying so much about the bottom 20% who “won’t amount to anything anyways”.
Teaching Strategies: That Special Education teachers are not really teachers. That we are more Case Managers who do “stuff” in the classrooms to keep “those” kids quiet and out of sight whenever possible. Those dumb kids always make it so we don’t meet AYP. Special Education kids – if they would only work harder and be more interested in school, they would do a lot better. We let them play games all the time, our educational strategies are not overly rigorous compared to “real” teachers. Special education children are forced to be allowed in regular education classes and all to often disrupt the classroom so much that “real” students can’t learn and so on.
Sometimes I think that we in special education and children’s advocacy tend to purposely insulate ourselves from hearing or reading about what others are actually saying. We often act surprised and angry when we finally actually hear or read these things. It frightens me more that these opinions are being made by people, other than the usual ones that historically disagreed with Special Education and that it is becoming more mainstream and acceptable to publicly state these opinions. I am all for the Right of Free Speech, but the increasing amount of rhetoric is concerning.
Like many of you reading this blog, I have vigorously defended both my profession and my students in these conversations, but these discussions with others are becoming less conversations and more attacks directed at Special Education programs and students. It is time to take our heads out of the sand and see/hear and listen to what is actually going on around us?
As education budgets shrink in light of the political changes taking place and as Special Education budgets continue to increase to meet Court Mandates, I foresee a significant increased backlash against Special Education programs and students. Do you?
Am I being hypersensitive or are others beginning to see this backlash against Special Education Programs and our students?