The Kiss of Death
What does government do when it wants to do nothing? Answer: refer to a task force or a committee to study the problem. Government studies problems to death without doing anything. Some times methinks this is the primary function of government.
The current issue is a bill that was introduced in the Maryland State Legislature this session by State Senator Joan Carter Conway from Baltimore City.
Roughly 10% of public school children have disabilities that are defined by both federal and state law. These children are required to have an education that meets their specific educational needs. The specific needs are spelled out in a document called the Individual Education Program or IEP. Every child receiving special education services has one. However, there are often disagreements between parents and school officials about just what the need for services is. Parents have to give their permission for significant changes to their children’s programs. However, there are other changes that the school system can make without parental approval.
If parents are very unhappy they can take their case to mediation and/or to a hearing before an administrative law judge. The problem is it costs money to hire experts and an attorney to plead the case. School systems have high-powered attorneys on retainer whose sole purpose is to thwart what parents’ want. If a family wins a legal dispute their legal costs will be reimbursed. But since the change in the make up of the hearing officer to an administrative law judge rather than a professional knowledgable in the specific disability area of the child, parents only prevail in about 5% of the cases. Both parents and school systems know the deck is very much stacked against parents.
Legislation in the Maryland General Assembly would have shifted a bit of the balance of power to families. Under the proposed bill certain changes in a child’s educational program could not be made without parental approval. If the system wanted to make these changes without the permission of the family, the school system would have to initiate the hearing. School systems are against the bill. The Anne Arundel School Board voted to oppose. The School Board President said, “parents want the best for their children but school staff know the resources the students need.” She went on to say, parents are not the experts in special education. REALLY! So parents have raised this kid, dealt with her 24/7 but have no clue what resources the child needs?! They may not have a degree in special education but I think they are experts in their child. The child will be the responsibility of the school district through the year the child turns 21. The child will be the concern of the parents through the time the parent is buried. Hmmmm, let’s see who has the bigger stake in this child’s future? The school system that knows best, of course, also mentioned that teachers would miss too many days of school if they had to testify at due process hearings. They are also concerned that if parents get to choose educational placements they might opt for options that would increase costs. Costs in dollars I am guessing because they are certainly not considering costs in children’s lives.
You know the old saw about kicking the can down the road. Well now with this new committee we will be kicking kids’ lives down the road.