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Voice: Use controversy to help special ed kids

March 07, 2002

A tremendous amount of energy has been exerted in presenting opinions and points of view regarding students with disabilities in recent letters to the Imperial Valley Press.

These passion-filled opinions and points of view in response to the "need I say more" letter were well made and based upon personal experiences and research based facts.

As unfortunate as the circumstances are that would cause so much attention to individuals with disabilities, the silver lining here is that it affords me the opportunity to encourage the past and future letter-writers, as well as all our citizens, to rechannel their passion and energy to writing to our state and federal legislators demanding attention to the following: (As a reminder, this is an election year and these two items would be excellent talking points with candidates).

1. Full federal funding to the 40 percent of state costs of special education as promised in 1972. To date, the federal government has supported federally mandated special education programs and services to a 15 percent of cost level. As the increasing federal mandates are created at each re-authorization of federal law, school districts must dig deeper into their general fund. This is at the expense of all other education programs and services. If the federal government had fully funded the states to the 40 percent level this year, California would have received an additional $1.16 billion. Just imagine the programs, technology and services we could provide students with disabilities. Please write those letters and make those calls to our federal representatives.

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2. This year, California received and additional $112 million from the federal government for special education. Our governor deducted $112 million from his state budget to offset our states financial crisis. Other education programs received cuts as well, none of which are entitlements and in the views of some even necessary. The governor did promise that this would be a one time event! So what have we learned over time about politicians and promises? Here again we all must write and telephone our state representatives to author and/or support legislation that requires all new federal funding for special education to be protected and utilized for that purpose only. We must have the governor's promise in "writing."

All God's children deserve more and better. Those very special children who do not sign up in life to have disabilities deserve yet a bit more. Parents of children with disabilities did not sign up for their children to be disabled, either. So let us all be sensitive to the journey that God has presented individuals with disabilities, their parents and families. On the other hand, we as educators and other helping professionals, we DID sign-up to educate, serve and protect all God's children, yes including those with different abilities.

Dr. GLENN F. SAROT

Administrator

Imperial County Special Education Local Plan Area

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