Let’s Make Everybody Special
I know it’s de rigueur to advocate for those who require additional help in school in an effort to bring them as near to the average line as conceivably possible, but something just seems wrong (in certain lights, immoral) about opposing this change, as described in the Rhode Island Catholic, in a state with as bleak a future as ours:
Changing the way special education is funded and provided in non-public schools by eliminating the state regulations and exclusively following the federal regulations. These federal regulations require the LEA, local education agency or, more simply, school district, where the non-public school is located to provide special education funding and eliminate the current state standard under which the LEA where the child lives, if it is different, would also contribute services if there was an additional need. For example, a special needs child lives in Providence and attends a non-public school in Johnston, under the current regulations, if necessary, that child would receive special education funding or services from the non-public school, and the Providence and Johnston school districts. If the proposed changes are accepted by the board, the funding would only come from Johnston, and if there was additional need the school district where the child lives would not be required to contribute services. The school district where the child lives is exempt from providing services despite the fact that the child lives in Providence, his parents pay school taxes to Providence, and, as one Catholic school parent pointed out, the child could very well go on to live in Providence after graduation.
Firstly, if the argument for money from Providence is that the child’s parents pay taxes in that city, then what’s the argument for money from Johnston? Simply that the school is located there? It seems to me that one might just as well argue that Cranston ought to contribute because the private school’s special education teacher pays taxes there, or Westerly ought to contribute because the child’s grandmother lives there, and after all, he might opt to live closer to her after graduation.
Secondly, not to sound cruel in my naivété, but why ought special needs equate to special privileges? One parent’s reasoning makes the current system sound fundamentally unjust:
Mary Lennon, whose daughter attends a Catholic school and receives special education services, addressed the board Wednesday night about the effect these proposals would have on her daughter. She called on the board to continue to make Catholic education a viable choice for parents of children with special needs. “Children with disabilities will face enough challenges in life. A well-planned Catholic education with the right supports in place will sustain them,” she said.
As it happens, I’m currently looking into Catholic schools in part because the Tiverton school district doesn’t offer any sort of gifted/talented program. Why should my children languish in a system that I don’t believe to be sufficient for their needs — having heard from parents whose children went far astray because they weren’t adequately challenged in it — even as my tax dollars finance attendance at my preferred school for children who clear Rhode Island’s lowered special-needs bar? Why, for that matter, shouldn’t Catholic education be “a viable choice” for all taxpaying citizens, no matter the advantages or disadvantages of their children?
I don’t know the specific dollar breakdowns pertaining to special needs students in private school. I suspect the parents still pay some of the tuition, and I can sympathize with the argument (which I could imagine making, myself) that private schools might shy away from accepting such children unless they were able to make up some portion of the extra cost of educating them. It just seems wrong, though, for only the wealthy and the challenged to be able to escape undesirable — and decreasingly funded — schools.