The politics of special education

What’s ahead for special education in 2011? Special education funding is a “passionate cause” for Rep. John Kline, the new chair of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, notes the National Journal.

Is Kline’s desire to fund special education at the 40 percent level a pie-in-the-sky dream? Should special education be considered as its own animal, or should a debate about special education funding levels be discussed as part of the overall Education Department budget?

Money isn’t the key issue, responds Sandy Kress, who was an education advisor to President George W.  Bush. The performance of students with disabilities improved significantly when No Child Left Behind began holding schools accountable for their success. Many who want to provide more funding for special ed also want to let schools off the hook for the academic performance of disabled students. Once again, there will be no consequences for failing to educate special-ed students.  “This would be a shameful step backwards for disabled students,” Kress argues.

About Joanne


  1. CarolineSF says:

    More teacher-bashing and school-bashing by the privatizers and reformistas. Has Kress ever been in a classroom with severely disabled students?

    Private schools* spurn disabled students (as the New York Times reminded us in a story last week), and charter schools notoriously enroll far fewer disabled students than public schools do. So the reformistas’ solutions are openly contemptuous of disabled students and their needs.

    OK, vent over. The basic point: Money IS the key issue.

    *I am referring to non-specialty private schools, the elite ones that parents proudly mention. There are specialized private schools specifically serving different types of disabilities, for $35,000/year and up, at least in my area.

  2. Cranberry says:

    Does anyone have a realistic estimate of the sums spent nationally on special education?

    Presumably, if the feds were to pick up 40% of the tab, as promised long ago, they would have every reason to set national definitions for qualifying conditions, and national guidelines for acceptable fee schedules. This could be a good thing or a bad thing.

  3. Instead of lumping all disabilities together, we need to differentiate them:

    * relatively minimal disabilities – mild to moderate LD, ADD, ADHD, physical mobility, mild vision/hearing loss

    * medium disabilities – those that will require spending more than an occasional resource period out of the classroom. May require an aide, or assignment to a separate classroom.

    * severe disabilities – mobility, sensory loss, expected to need assistance with ADL lifelong.

    The first category will be manageable in the classroom, with some help. Those students should be held to the standards on NCLB.

    The second category might, on a case-by-case basis, be excluded from state standardized testing – but ONLY if that student is expected not to receive a h.s. diploma.

    The last category to be exempted – with the blind, mobility and hearing impaired to be moved to the second category if that student has no other disability, and will receive a regular diploma; they will then be classified as part of the NCLB group.

  4. NCLB did little in the schools I’ve worked at to improve special education… the state simply defined proficiency amongst those groups low enough to show improvement over pre-NCLB days.
    I love that they’re talking about increasing SpEd funding in today’s economy of slashed school budgets. Pretty soon parents will be scrambling to have their children identified so they have access to things like textbooks, desks, and teachers in school.

  5. Mike in Texas says:

    It’s pretty chicken%#@* of the National Journal to allow comments from people “invited” to participate.

    Sandy Kress was and is a paid lobbyist, not an educaton expert.