Special Education is not just a civil rights issue, it is an economic issue. Education is fundamental to work and productivity. Even with severe learning disabilities, any education can benefit the lives of individuals and the infrastructure of the community. Education provides a two-fold benefit. It increases economic productivity and it decreases drain on community resources through self-sufficiency.
Americans with Special Needs
Many Americans with disabilities hold jobs. Some may only make minimum wage and may not be able to work full time. Nonetheless, this work benefits our economy. These individuals pay taxes when they spend their earnings. These taxes benefit the community and help recoup the costs of services they require.
Even for Americans with disabilities that can’t work, education helps them become more self-sufficient, minimizing their need for community services. Economically it makes a big difference to the community whether an individual can read a form and fill it out, cook food, catch a bus, or plan their day. At each step, Special Education helps the individual to be more self-sufficient and therefore require less community resources. If they can’t do these things then the government often must provide services to help them.
Special Education is a long, hard, and expensive process. Students with special needs may take a lot longer to learn but it doesn’t make that learning any less valuable. Special Education teachers may spend years working with a student on the same skills. In the end, acquiring those skills means that the community doesn’t have to fulfill them for the student because the student is more self-sufficient for having had access to this Special Education.
Funding Issues and Consequences
I appreciate the legislation that requires schools that receive federal money to provide for the needs of all students, including students with special needs. As a society we need to value all our citizens for the contributions they can make and for their humanity. Unfortunately this legislation is an unfunded mandate. Schools must reach high standards of care when it comes to their students with special needs but have no extra resources to reach these standards.
Practically, this means that schools have had to divert funds from General Education to Special Education. At first it was a matter of tightening belts when it came to spending but the financial issues of General and Special Education have progressed far beyond that point. Many Americans are concerned about the education in the General Education classroom. While General Education standards and funding are very complex issues with many variables, very little has been considered about the effects of this unfunded mandate on the quality of education schools are able to provide.
Where Do You Stand?
I encourage you to think about this issue, the value of our students and citizens with special needs, the value of investing in their education, and consider your stance. If you believe as I do that all individuals deserve a quality education and that the government was right when they passed legislation requiring schools to provide Special Education, join with me in asking the government to put their money where their mouth is and financially support this federal mandate.