Wednesday, February 17, 2010

In Education Vote, Politics Wins; Kids Lose.

If you've followed my blog over the past few months, you've read about the proposed budget in Montgomery County, Md., that would eliminate a proven program for preschoolers with disabilities, replacing it with a flawed, experimental program that was created without the involvement of parents or the county's partners who have successfully provided these services for 35 years.

Parents vocally expressed their opposition to this plan. Many pointed out that Superintendent Jerry Weast blatantly violated a Board of Education policy that new programs must be presented in time to be reviewed -- before showing up in a budget.

Today, the members of the Board of Education unanimously approved that budget.

Unanimously, they voted against a proven program that parents have relied on to give their children a chance to succeed.

Unanimously, they told parents of special-needs children that they do not value their opinions and experiences when making major changes to the services the county offers.

Unanimously, they told Dr. Weast that he can unilaterally create, change, or shut down any program he chooses -- and they will rubber stamp his decisions.

Unanimously, they threatened the future well-being of our county's youngest and most at-risk children.

UPDATE: I've created a Facebook group to encourage people to ask Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett to overturn this decision and preserve MPAC's services for children who need them. Before March 1, email him at or call his office at 240-777-2500 and urge him to overturn the realignment of preschool services and to preserve MPAC.

Friday, February 12, 2010

President's Special Ed Funding Increase Not Enough, Some Say

President Obama's proposed budget includes $250 million in new special education funds, but some advocates say it's not enough. The budget proposal has nearly $12 billion in special ed funding for states, which is $250 million more than last year.

"But despite the increase," Disability Scoop reports, "the federal contribution toward the cost of special education would remain steady at about 17 percent. And that’s a problem for special educators who want the president to stick to his campaign promise of fully funding the program."

Deborah Ziegler of the Council for Exceptional Children said: “We are disheartened to see the president did not use this opportunity to fulfill his campaign commitment to fully fund special education and early intervention programs. Another opportunity to make progress toward fully funding IDEA has, sadly, been missed.”

When the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act was passed in 1975, Congress committed to funding 40 percent of the cost of educating students with disabilities, with states covering the rest of the cost. But the government has typically provided less than 20 percent of the cost.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Rating the R-Word Offenses: A Bipartisan Look

I don't comment every time someone is criticized for saying "retard" or "retarded," but so many political and media folks have been dropping the R-word that I have to chime in. Particularly why Rush Limbaugh's and Glen Beck's comments are more offensive than the other people in question -- White House aide Rahm Emanuel and David Carney, a campaign consultant to Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Here's a quick summary, with links if you want to read more. My ratings are not intended to excuse any use of this word, but I think there are varying degrees of insensitivity and offensiveness. What do you think? Are all uses of the R-word equally offensive?

In a strategy session with liberal groups and other White House, some attendees said they were going to air ads attacking conservative Democrats who were opposing the president's health care plan. White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel responded by saying, "F--ing retarded." It was reported in the Wall Street Journal, and Emanuel called Special Olympics head Tim Shriver to apologize to the disabled community. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin called for Emanuel's resignation. Emanuel signed a pledge to not say the word again, and the White House planned a meeting with disability advocates.
Offense scale = 6. Insensitive, in a small group, and not directed toward people with disabilities.

In Texas, David Carney was accused of using the word "retarded" during negotiations over logistics for a Jan. 14 debate. According to Terry Sullivan, campaign manager for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Kay Bailey Hutchison, when Carney heard that one of the holding rooms would be in a different building, he said, "That's just retarded. That's the most retarded thing I've ever heard."
Offense scale = 5. Insensitive, in an even smaller group, and not directed toward people with disabilities, or any person in particular.

Here is a partial transcript from Limbaugh. I challenge any disability advocate, whatever your political leanings, to defend these remarks:

"Folks, there is so much apologizing going on from members of this administration, it’s just amazing. First place, there’s Rahm Emanuel out there who is in big trouble for calling liberals, for calling liberal activists F-ing retards. Sarah Palin demanded that he be fired. Instead, he is apologizing to liberal activists. He was getting mad at them about health care. The liberal activists kept blaming the White House for all this health care debacle not happening and not getting done. Emanuel’s getting ticked off out there saying, (paraphrasing) “What are you blaming us for? We didn’t do anything about it, you F-ing retards.” I think the big news is the crack-up going on. But our politically correct society is acting like some giant insult’s taken place by calling a bunch of people who are “retards,” “retards.” I mean these people, these liberal activists are kooks. They are Looney Tunes. I’m not going to apologize for it. I’m just quoting Emanuel. It’s in the news. I think the big news is that he’s out there calling Obama’s number one supporters “F-ing retards.”

"So now there’s going to be a meeting, there’s going to be a “Retard” Summit at the White House....From the Wall Street Journal: “Emanuel Steps Up His Apology — Rahm Emanuel privately apologized last week to the Special Olympics after the Journal reported that he used the word ‘retarded’ in a derogatory manner. But advocates for people with disabilities didn’t think that apology, coming in a phone call to Special Olympics head Tim Shriver, was enough. Now, Emanuel is taking his contrition one step farther — hosting a delegation of advocates, including two people with mental disabilities, at the White House.” They’re going to have a “Retard” Summit just like they had the Beer Summit....You know, here’s the thing. If you want to look at how this is broken down, Emanuel compares Democrat activists to retarded people, then apologizes to retarded people. Not to the Democrats.

"Normally if you call somebody a retard, you apologize to them for calling them a retard. But he has apologized to the retarded people for daring to lump them with Democrats. It’s hilarious. So in an effort, ladies and gentlemen, to quell rising questions about the endless apologies necessary from Democrats, Obama is taking a short bus, little yellow bus full of “retards” — “F-ing retards” — to Las Vegas for the weekend."

Offense scale = 10. He calls people with disabilities "retards," "retarded," and even works in a "joke" about a "short bus." Not satire, not funny -- just cruel.

Palin told Chris Wallace yesterday: "They are kooks, so I agree with Rush Limbaugh. [He] was using satire ... . I didn't hear Rush Limbaugh calling a group of people whom he did not agree with 'f-ing retards,' and we did know that Rahm Emanuel, as has been reported, did say that. There is a big difference there."

Glenn Beck, the father of a child with special needs, was talking on his radio show last month to actress Mary Lynn Rajskub of "24." Talking by phone, Rajskub mentioned her love of painting, and when she said she enjoys painting "retarded children and paintings of the insane," you could clearly hear laughter on Beck's end of the line. Beck, trying to suppress laughs, asked how much the paintings of the "retarded" children go for. She then asked of there were "people laughing in the background," he said, "We're not laughing, we're just imagining that those would be nice. ... Honestly, I've been looking for one of those, but I haven't seen them."
Offense rating = 7. Upon hearing the word, Beck should have reminded Rajskub that that term can be offensive to many people. Did he really think that was funny to the point of laughing uncontrollably? How would he react if a guest or caller used a racial or ethnic slur?

I encourage you to visit to learn how to "Spread the word to end the word."

UPDATE: Stephen Colbert on Palin, Limbaugh, and Emanuel, from Patricia E. Bauer's Disability News.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Parent: Dr. Weast Violated Board Policy. Will They Let Him Get Away With It?

On Tuesday, the Board of Education is scheduled to vote on the FY11 budget, which includes a proposal to dramatically change the way the county serves preschoolers with special needs. As the vote nears, more questions are being raised about the program and the way Superintendent Weast is trying to push it through, despite the objections of parents and special ed advocates. Here is a letter that a parent wrote to Patricia O'Neill, president of the board.

Dear Mrs. O’Neill:

Please fulfill your responsibility to establish effective board policies by rejecting the Superintendant’s transparent attempt to circumvent Policy AEB by mischaracterizing his plan to establish a new program as a “realignment” of funds. Policy AEB, entitled “Strategic Planning for Continuous Improvement,” clearly states:

The superintendant shall present to the Board any significant changes to the strategies and initiatives in the strategic plan, including establishing new programs, eliminating existing programs, or making major changes to programs in a manner that provides the Board an opportunity to offer suggestions on the proposed changes before the superintendant finalizes his/her recommended budget.

The superintendant has clearly violated Policy AEB by including his proposal to start a new special education preschool program in his recommended FY2011 Operating Budget once again denying the Board, parents and other stakeholders the opportunity to offer meaningful input before the budget is finalized. Even more egregious he has hired the first teacher for this program which is opening this month even before his budget recommendation has been approved.

The Board amended Policy AEB in May “to reflect the Board’s strong commitment to include staff members, students, parents, and other community members on the School Improvement Team for each school; reflect the alignment of the strategic planning process with budget preparation procedures; and to outline the opportunities for community input into the budget preparation process.” When the Board considered the revised policy, members noted that the proposal to eliminate the learning centers was introduced to the Board through the operating budget and stated that there needed to be discussion about programmatic decisions prior to the Superintendant’s delivery of the budget. The Board approved the amendments over the Superintendant’s objections. What was the point if he is going to ignore the policy and you refuse to enforce it?

At the budget working session on January 28, Mr. Durso asked how MCPS and the Board can overcome some credibility issues. Following and enforcing your own policies and procedures would be a good start.

Disability Scoop

Special Ed News (Education Week)

Special Education Law