School Advocacy

Advocating for Special Services at School

As a taxpayer, I can understand budget shortfalls. But as the mother of a child protected by IDEA, I don’t care!

New classrooms and academic hallways, which parents should explore with their children before school starts.
New classrooms and academic hallways, which parents should explore with their children before school starts.

If you’ve followed my ADHD Parenting Blog for any length of time, you’ve probably guessed that I’m opinionated about our local school system and its special education program. Natalie qualifies for special ed due to her ADHD and developmental delays. Special ed has helped her tremendously…but.

But #1: I always want her to have more. But #2: I want what she does receive to be better. As Natalie’s number-one advocate, I have ultra-high expectations for her school experience. So, when it comes to demanding excellence, it seems I can’t keep my mouth shut, or my fingers off the keyboard.

I was reading the July 21st issue our local paper, The Tribune, and my attention was drawn to a story about how the Ames Community School District was put on the No Child Left Behind watchlist. Ames’ schools have traditionally had an excellent reputation, particularly at the high school level, where our graduates have tremendous ACT scores and the like. But NCLB identified that the Ames Community School district is indeed leaving certain children behind–Hispanics, kids from families living at low socioeconomic levels, English language learners, and, lo and behold, kids in special education. When the assessments done with those children are averaged in, even the ultra-high achievers our system boasts can’t raise the results enough to disguise the problem. I’m suddenly–for the first time ever–a fan of NCLB!

So, I’m already up-in-arms, and then I turn the page of the newspaper. The next article I read–in the very same issue–reports that the school board voted to eliminate two full-time and one part-time special ed teachers due to budget problems. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. Sure, as a tax payer I can understand that we’re experiencing major budget shortfalls, and that unpopular steps must be taken. But as the mother of a child protected by IDEA (the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), I don’t care! Under IDEA, schools must provide my child with an appropriate education, based upon her needs, not upon costs. Budgets be damned!

Given my inability to shut my mouth and shut down my laptop, it shouldn’t surprise you that I wrote a guest commentary, which The Tribune ran a few days later. Read it here, if you’re interested: “Special Needs for Special Ed”.

My husband, Don, was afraid to read it at first, but after doing so said, with relief, “That’s not so bad.” High praise, huh? I guess he was relieved that I took out all references to my rantings about how the district’s special ed program would never stand up to legal challenges under IDEA, if a parent were ever to pursue a lawsuit.

That’s not a threat. I can’t ever see myself taking the path of taking legal action. But I believe it’s the truth, and I can state my opinion, can’t I? More to the point, I can’t seem not to! I guess doing so as diplomatically as possible is the best Don can hope–and I can aim for.