15 April 2010

SpEd vs. Senate Bill 6 & Budget Cuts


Recent news stories in special education point towards the same ideas: Budget Cuts, and Special Education Spending.  The two seem in opposition to one another.  In one article The Florida Senate is trying to pass Senate Bill 6 where teacher pay would be linked to student test scores.  In the realm of Special Education, this is a horrific concept, because success for these students cannot be measure by test scores.  The ability to tie your own shoe or independently use the bathroom is not a question on a test.  Luckily, today Gov. Crist Vetoed the bill.  My Fox Tampa quoted the Governor as saying, "There must be more attention to their special needs."  He mentions how the bill ignored this population of schools, but that the bill, in general, was too flawed.  Common sense did win out, and this was a step in the right direction. 

This situation in Florida points to the notion that education reform is needed, but what will it look like?  It will not look like merit-based pay, nor will it look like federal mandates and across-the-board standards.  I also do not believe it will look like a model of business-like cut-throat pressures for success.  It is true that education NEEDS to be reformed, but it will look like a new education model that will not start at the top and make its way down to the students.  I have a hard time beliving my WA Senator in DC has any idea what will help the students in the schools in their own state.  What will work for one district, will not work for its neighboring district.  Therefore, Education reform needs to look like the democratic system in which we live and thrive.  Reform needs to start with the highly trained professionals we trust to enrich the lives of our children.  It takes a community to raise a child in the way that they should go... NOT the government.  The unions should push for influence, power, and respoonsibility of the teachers, not more money.  You give teachers the power to educate the children in the right way, and the parents will fork over the dollars to let their children be taught. 

But I digress.

The second article I was reading was talking about budget cuts in the recession economy and the overspending of Special Education Programs.  What was interesting in the article was the Federal mandates to provide Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) to all students, but they don't provide the funds to the districts so that they can do that.  We argue for more money and smaller classes through the unions, but what we need is the ability to hire the needed professionals to educate the children, and the proper environment that is conducive to learning.  How does this happen?  We need to change what we think about education.  Everything else in society is changing, but we're still trying to stick to the same ideas of what is considered to be "teaching."  Is it more important for a student to know the meaning of the work and recite it for a test, or to be able to find the meaning of whatever words they may come across on their own?  Is it more important for students to loathe dragging themselves through restricted learning methods that are intent on getting test scores, or should we get them to enjoy the learning process so that they will be more willing to step out and venture into the world and discover what it can teach them?  Asking ans discussing these questions will get us on the road to reform. 

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