The one in which my inner Republican comes out

At the library today, I had the misfortune of listening to a woman rant about how the school system is not providing adequate services for her child. The services she wanted provided? Apparently her daughter doesn’t like to go to school. And according to some interpretation of some archaic law, that qualifies her daughter for special education services, or so she claims.

I firmly believe that special education services should be provided by the school districts. I also firmly believe that they should be provided on a sliding scale basis. And based on my conversation today, I also firmly believe that children who don’t want to go to school but are otherwise excelling should not qualify for special education services.

When C was diagnosed with apraxia, we were immediately told to contact the local school department to ensure that we got the “free services” we were entitled to. He was three. We made a conscious decision to seek private therapy based on the fact that we could afford it and we didn’t want to force the local community to pay for a service that we could provide for our child ourselves. We felt that the money that would have been spent on C would be better spent on a child whose family did not have the resources available to seek a private alternative.

Should services be provided to those who need them? Absolutely. I have worked in some of the most impoverished school districts in this country, and spent a large portion of my working career trying to ensure that those families that needed it had access to the services they required, and that they realized that they were entitled to those services. But does a family who vacations in the south of France several times a year require state-funded services because their child doesn’t like school? No. Should families who can afford to do so be required to contribute something towards the services provided to their children? In most cases, yes.

And since I am on the topic, I am also frequently floored by the number of wealthy, well educated people I run into whose child clearly needs some sort of support, be it academic or emotional, who shrug and say “Well, they didn’t qualify for the services provided by the district so oh well.” It is your child. You can provide the needed services. Why would you choose not to provide them just because they are not provided for free? You pay for gymnastics classes, swimming lessons, art classes. If your child needs extra help with reading, make sure they get the help they need, even if means you have to pay for it out of pocket. Just because your child doesn’t qualify for services doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t benefit from them. Raising your children is your responsibility, not that of the school system.



  1. Yay for you! I wholly approve. πŸ˜‰ Without getting into a political discussion, I just have to say I agree with most of what you said. Too many parents today feel it is the schools’ jobs to raise our children.

    I recently told my cousin that the reason govt keeps getting bigger is simple: people are okay looking out for themselves most of the time — until it gets personal. It’s then that they want the govt to do something about it. Even people who are otherwise “Republican” sometimes believe it is the govt’s job to relieve their suffering, however temporary it might be.

    But then there is suffering, and there is *suffering*. Not being self-motivated is not a suffering worth of entitlement! Gee, I never thought of that before … I’m having trouble getting Amber to be self-motivated. I wonder if I could get the school to address that problem?? Sheesh. And here I was spending all this time wracking my brain with ideas of what *I* could do.

  2. Hey! Great post! I totally agree with you – my dad is a school psychologist on a child study team and my mom is a special ed teacher, so I’ve been around it my whole life. I hear the stories my dad tells me and I am appalled at some parents today. It honestly nauseates me, some of the enabling that goes on and the sense of entitlement when not even warranted. My brother was classified due to his learning disabilities and my family paid for the evaluation privately and thanks to my dad, didn’t have to do lots of needless evals, etc. My brother needed those services and to think of someone not really needing them and getting exemptions, etc., really upsets me.

  3. We were practically shoved not early intervention but I resisted and I was glad. Our insurance covered every thing we needed and I did not feel right using services that I could have covered privately. Plus I prefer the idea that I can pick who sees my child instead of having to be thankful for what I got. Sometimes I think that there should be a test before some people have kids.

  4. You know our whole saga. Anyway, I was lucky to find a spot in the college clinic, but you can rest assured that had I not, we would have sought private therapy. Once we had a diagnosis, it seemed completely irresponsible as parents to hang around waiting until NY state decided that AM should qualify…in 3/6/12 months/ever? Of course we have the luxury of *not* waiting. And since the clinic comes on the very cheap, at the end of the semester we have the further luxury of then deciding whether or not to spend the summer in private therapy.

    Frankly, I found the whole EI qualification process pretty disheartening. I was suspect from the get go because I had referred AM myself. Even moreso when someone I met later (after he hadn’t qualified), who worked for an agency that does the evals, told me that “the case workers have no idea what they’re” doing, and indeed, there was an appeal process that she did not tell us about.

    Something is broken somewhere. But not liking school? Do your homework–figure out what’s wrong and/or find a new school. Why would she think that special education is the answer?

  5. Amen, sister! I’d vote for you, even if you were a Republican. We spent a small fortune to ensure our daughter’s central auditory processing issues were dealt with quickly and ably. For her to qualify for assistance at school, she needed to be at least 8 to receive the formal diagnosis. We started her when she was 5 because, first and foremost, why the hell would we wait that long? So we can’t afford France. I don’t speak the language anyway.

    Yes, there are kids who really need help with families without our resources. And, sadly, yes, there are those people whose only goal seems to be to get something for nothing. ‘Cause it’s all about them.

  6. My grandson was treated privately for his speech problems. He would have qualified for Special Ed but it meant a waiting list and seeing that he was almost three, it was decided not to wait.

    Too many people abuse the system that was put in place for people who do not have the means to get the necessary help for their children. Too many people “work” the system. I was disgusted by it when I was teaching and as a parent and grandparent I am still disgusted by people who will not assume responsibility for their children’s needs.

  7. If you follow your thinking to its logical conclusion then we would be asking parents to pay for anything their child requires that is not “average” in school. There would be no AP Courses, kids would not go to State Championships in sports or All-State Music festivals. Special Ed kids would get no support services and kids in wheelchairs would have to navigate without ramps. Making parents pay might also lead to a system where the quality of the services is based on the ability to pay. We’ve seen how well that works in medicine! Yes, there are people who try and take advantage of the system and there needs to be a way to weed them out. I doubt seriously that the child who does not like school will qualify for services and if she does there is something going on that you don’t know about.
    What does make sense is for the school districts to be able to file claims with the insurance companies for services such as OT, PT or Speech. They would have a much better chance of collecting than individual parents trying to navigate the system

  8. JWG,

    I agree and disagree with you all at the same time. I have a hard time imagining that the woman I mentioned would actually receive the services she was requesting. It was more the concept that she thought she was entitled to them that floored me.

    I am not in any way saying that school districts should not be providing additional services. In fact I strongly believe that they should. And I also strongly believe that those who cannot afford to pay for such services, be they AP courses or special education assistance, should have access to them. But I also believe that there is a limit to what public dollars can provide without requiring an unreasonable tax burden on everyone.

    For me personally, I view my taxes as a way to help even the playing field for those who do not have access to the resources that I do, as well as to pay for services such as policing, fire services, and the provision of things such as wheelchair ramps and other such services that benefit society as a whole.

    If my children qualified for AP coursework, and if I were asked to contribute towards the cost of it, and if I were financially able to do so, I wouldn’t blink an eye. I would also expect that those who could not contribute financially would have the exact same access.

    There are no easy answers to these questions. If there were politics would be an extinct profession.

  9. I thought about this more in the middle of the night, and I’m going to try and explain my position a bit more.

    In an ideal word, public education would be absolutely free for everyone, and it would be a fabulous education that met the needs of every child. In reality, that is impossible. Providing a top notch education for every child is expensive, and tax dollars are spread very thin. In many communities, taxpayers are refusing to vote for additional spending on education, requiring school districts to slash budgets as best they can while trying to maintain educational quality.

    Given the realities of the current educational system and the limited resources available, I personally wouldn’t be upset if asked to contribute to any additional services my child required, because if the school district wasn’t going to offer them I would be paying for them anyway.

    For example, next year my son wants to take up a musical instrument. Because of budget constraints, in order for him to do that at school I will need to pay for the lessons. Would I prefer that they were free? Absolutely. But will I refuse him music lessons because I have to pay for them? No. And would I be willing to pay a little extra to ensure that another student whose family couldn’t pay for them is able to take lessons? Yes. And do I think that more resources should be diverted to communities where parents are not able to pay for “extra” services? Yes.

    I know that many people would disagree with me on this point, but to me, given the realities of the funding stream for the public educational system, I think that it is the best way to try and ensure that everyone has access to an adequate education.

  10. It’s our whole American idea of entitlement. We think we deserve everything handed to us. A while back we saw something on some Dateline-ish program about why European public schools are so much better than ours and it really made me mad. Our schools are constrained so much by our teacher’s union. In many European countries, the public schools have to compete for students, and hence the funding that goes along with them. Their schools are so much better because they know that if they slack off their funding goes away – a little bit like a voucher system. A little healthy competition would make such a world of difference for our public schools but our unions are so powerful it could never happen here.

  11. Interesting topic of conversation. We do have similar systems (US vs. Canada) and very similar problems that go along with it. Funding here does depend on enrollment, so the more students you have the more you get. And the number of people who feel they are entitled to a certain service just because is equally as astounding.

    I also know far too many people who abuse the system. It would be great if we could all get stuff for free but we can’t. I, for one, would rather pay for a service so that someone who does need it gets it. Unfortunately, far too often, people who shouldn’t get the service does and the ones who need go without. Leaving our school to ask for extra donations to help the ones without. It is all just a vicious circle.

    A very interesting topic though, I enjoy hearing it from our neighbors to the South.

  12. “I am also frequently floored by the number of wealthy, well educated people I run into whose child clearly needs some sort of support, be it academic or emotional, who shrug…”

    I run into these people all the time, in a variety of work-social-settings (ironically, not in the school-social-settings. hmm) and it Drives. Me. Nuts.

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