On Thursday Paul had a letter in his backpack from the Superintendent asking parents to contact legislators about public financing for Saint Paul schools. The whole letter can be found here.
I had one of those moments of just shaking my head as I read these sentences:
We are required by law to provide special education services. Freezing special education funding without reducing services amounts to an additional cut of $3 million.
This money will have to be made up from our general fund. The likely result of this cut will be increasing class sizes and the elimination of all day kindergarten.
Ok, where do we begin with what’s wrong with this? I’ll just stick with two.
First, this is a false dilemma. The Saint Paul Public School budget for the 2010-11 academic year is $623 million, and they began the year with a $59 million fund balance. They have numerous options for how money can be moved around, spent or not spent. To assert that because their hands are tied in one area means they have only one option in another is simply not true.
Second, the superintendent is pitting the needs of students with disabilities against typically-developing students. There was a reason why she chose those two groups of children. Read those above sentences from the superintendent again. It could also read this way: if we could, we would take money away from children with disabilities and make sure we have programs for students who really deserve it.
Frankly, I don’t know if St. Paul Public Schools needs more money or not, if they spend too much money on special education or not, or need all day kindergarten or not. So I’m not going to comment on the merits of what she was asking parents to do.
But these subtle statements about being handcuffed by laws governing special education just feed the cultural disdain for people with disabilities. ‘They’ are expensive, less worthy than others, and interfering with our plans.
I hope for better from public officials, especially those working in institutions dedicated to serving children.
But, it is a reminder there is lasting hope only in the One who has regard for those who are considered lesser in this present age. And he speaks a blessing on those who have regard for the weak:
Blessed is the one who considers the poor (or weak)! Psalm 41:1a