If You Are A Parent or Advocate of a Special Needs Child in NC Public Schools Then Read This

The state’s funding formula does not adjust for the severity of a disability; there is a flat rate provided for each child, in spite of the fact that the cost per year for a student with profound needs can skyrocket to as high as $100,000 or more.

The above excerpt is from Lindsay Wagner’s report in EdNC.org called “In North Carolina, funding gaps are shortchanging students with special needs” (https://www.ednc.org/2018/03/12/north-carolina-funding-gaps-shortchanging-students-special-needs/).

Read it. That’s right. I used the imperative mood to tell you to read that report.

It can be a rather confusing effort for parents of children with special needs to make sure their children are served well when considering IEP’s, school placement, resources, medical priorities, and other matters.

For a parent like me who is the father of a child with Down Syndrome and a public high school teacher it can be very frustrating. I know the limitations of funding in schools just for typical students. I write about that on this blog almost every week.

But I am a parent foremost. And like any parent, I will fight for what my child needs and is entitled to by law, specifically the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

North Carolina has started what is called the Personal Education Savings Account (PESA). It allows parents of a special needs child to receive up to $9,000 in public money on a debit card to pay for services, tutoring, or tuition at a private school.

Personally, it might be the most unregulated voucher offered in this state. And don’t get me wrong, Malcolm could use the money with his therapy and other resources that he needs. But this money comes at the expense of other special needs students who are in public schools. Why?

Read Lindsay Wagner’s article – https://www.ednc.org/2018/03/12/north-carolina-funding-gaps-shortchanging-students-special-needs/. I think it is mandatory to see how much these programs really do not work in a state that refuses to even fully fund schools for traditional students.

Besides, there are no other schools for my son. He actually “wrote” a letter to Betsy DeVos (with my help) last year explaining that he needed traditional public schools to be fully funded for all students, no matter the special needs.

He said,

“When I got ready to go to school a few years ago, one of my grandparents offered to pay tuition at any school that could help me the most, but none around here would take me because I have a certain type of developmental delay. Doesn’t seem like I had much choice.

But the public schools welcomed me with open arms. And I am learning because of the good teachers and the teacher assistants. Imagine what could happen if my school could have every resource to accommodate my needs.

When people in power have taken away resources, teacher assistants and forced local school systems to make due with less money, then all students, especially students like me, are not being helped as much. And it’s not our teachers’ fault. It’s the fault of those who control what we get.

You and Mr. Trump control a lot of what we get.

My family is very aware of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. It says that I am entitled by law to a sound and quality public education that will work to overcome my obstacles like any other student. We were surprised that you were not aware of IDEA when you were asked earlier this year. That law is my lifeline. And there are many students who do not have the advantages that I have. Some have more obstacles and more physical hurdles to overcome. They really need for you to step up for them. Part of your job is to protect that law.

But this budget that you seem to like does not really help to strengthen that.

The Individual Education Plan that I have that my school and parents put together is backed by federal law. That means that you are supposed to protect it.

But this budget and your actions do not seem to want to honor that (https://caffeinatedrage.com/2017/07/17/dear-secretary-devos-from-malcolm-a-special-normal-public-school-kid/). 

Again, Wagner gives a vivid picture of what funding gaps we really have in NC.

Read it.

I think about this stuff all of the time.

Because this kid is mine.