When You Start Cutting Special Needs Funding

The idea of cutting slashing special needs funding is appalling to me. This is the group that arguably needs their funding cut the least. It’s easy to dismiss this if you never had to sit through IEP meetings or worry about how your kid is going to succeed in school without receiving services. “Those are kids that would never make it anyways, so what does it matter?” is a sentiment that makes me cringe. This isn’t just going to affect those kids who may have severe disabilities, who deserve the dignity of going to school and learning and interacting with other people. Cutting this type of funding affects a broad range of students that you may look at and not believe that they receive services. But they are. And cutting those services will only hurt them.

It’s apparent that there is already a budget issue with funding special needs programs. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. My son’s early intervention services ended at 3, at which point I would either have had to hope that he got into this preschool program that offered these services or I would have to cough up money that I didn’t have. (Which I would have figured out, because that’s what you do.) When doing the evaluations, they met several difficulties along the way. First of all, he was still basically nonverbal just shy of his 3rd birthday. Secondly, he doesn’t have the focus or attention span to be bothered with testing. The tests came back inconclusive. That was a very bad sign that this nonverbal 3 year old was not going to get into a program that he really needed to get into. I was fortunate enough where that special needs team came together and realized there was a need, even if they had to really strain to get him into the program (he made it in for “self-control” issues).

The gamble paid off as the next year he did qualify for speech services. After getting those speech services? He just took off and not only did he start speaking very well, it turned out he could actually read. Which we wouldn’t have known had he not gotten these services. Had this team just dismiss him. They recognized that he was a bright child and that they needed to intervene to ensure that he could succeed in life. After he left preschool, he was out of these services. I thought I didn’t have to worry about it again. Until I did.

Again, in the meeting it was a struggle for the team. While they used a few technicalities as answers, it was needed otherwise my son wouldn’t get the services that they agree he needed. I’m lucky that I didn’t have to fight. Other parents aren’t that lucky. Those are the parents that suffer because the budget is already so tight for these kids. These kids are arguably the most vulnerable in the school system, especially for those “normal” kids like my son. Those kids where people don’t even realize that they are receiving services. Without receiving these services, my son could have easily become a statistic. He could be on the track of disciplinary issues or even eventually drop out because they are frustrated or dismissed as “unworthy” by a school system that values students based on testing and meeting a specific grade on unfair standardized tests. But for now, he is going to be fine.

That is until funding starts getting cut. Cutting the Special Olympics funding because “rich people will keep it afloat”? Are we seriously trusting fancy rich people do to things that don’t benefit their bottom line? But charter school funding remains untouched? Why not count on the rich people to put their money into those charter schools? Why cut services like the ones for those on the autism spectrum? Do you think rich donors are going to cover that too? It’s disgusting and appalling. These aren’t just issues that affect low income people. These are issues that the middle class are dealing with and the moment you ignore that, you are disproving anything that you have ever said about caring about the middle class. My son needed noise cancelling headsets to be okay in school. It took nearly 2 months to find a pair from someplace that was willing to share it because they didn’t need it at the time. The schools should be able to have those accommodations for the kids who need it. But hey, let’s cut funding to the special needs programs that kids rely on to succeed.

Make broad cuts that are necessary. If charter schools are really that great, parents can make that choice themselves. Don’t take money from public schools who actually need the money to improve. The special needs programs need more funding to keep up with the growing need, not getting cuts and forcing these school systems to refuse even more services than they already do for kids in need. If I didn’t have an excellent team supporting us, my son would’ve lagged behind. And if I need to, I will make it my mission to ensure other kids like him are taken care of. And I’m one hell of a fighter.

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