I happen to know that this is a fabrication. I have watched a close friend engage in the endlessly frustrating task of trying to find a school, any school, which can meet the requirements of educating her special needs child. The charter schools were simply disappointing, because they have so far failed to deliver on their promises of being able to teach her child. At least, with the charter schools, it was a simple matter to find another charter that might do the job better.
The government school (frequently mislabeled as public school) was a complete disaster by comparison. After taking months preparing an IEP (Individual Education Plan) for her son, which she was involved with to such a large extent that she even attended school classes with him in order to help guide his progress; the school decided they couldn’t educate him the first day that they were left alone with him, and called the police to have him arrested (he’s 10) for leaving his classroom.
What the police would have done is anybodies guess, but the crisis was averted by her timely arrival and permanent removal of her son from the only available school system in her area.
Enter Texas SB 1000, which will allow the parents of children with autism to receive vouchers so that they can seek an education for their children outside the restrictions of the government run system. She’s understandably interested in this bill’s passage. So am I, but for different reasons.
I have paid for private school for my children, and found charter schools for them when I could no longer afford private school. The government school system is so lackluster that I wouldn’t subject even normal children to it, much less one whose needs are more demanding than others. I have supported vouchers for Texas in the past, and I will do it again in the future. I think that providing vouchers to children with Autism is an excellent test, a chance to prove how much better an open market can deal with the requirements of educating the children of Texas.
Naturally, the supporters of state schooling are foursquare against this proposal, because they understand the threat that vouchers pose to their ill-performing monopoly. They are so frightened by this that they would do anything to defeat the proposal.
Enter the former mayor of Austin, Kirk Watson. He’s moved up in the world, taking over the designated Democrat representative seat in the State Senate, replacing the drunken Gonzalo Barrientos as the senate representative for the Austin area.
Far from being the friend of business that he has been credited with being, Watson has proven himself to be a pretty predictably average mercantilist or corporatist, handing out favors to large corporations and interest groups while mayor of Austin, and stifling small businesses and individuals with ill-founded proposals, such as the recent toll road proposals.
Watson is, also predictably, against vouchers. I’ll let him speak for himself:
Subject: Autism Services Accessibility
Date: Mon, 23 Apr 2007 11:58:46 -0500
From: Senator Kirk Watson
Dear Mr. Steele:Thank you for your letter regarding your support of Senate Bill 1000, relating to the use of public money for private school tuition for children with autism. I appreciate you sharing your views with me.I am committed to ensuring that we have an adequate and equitable funding structure for public education. The issue of vouchers has always been a controversial one, and I believe that we must carefully consider the options available for public school funding before we come to any decision regarding alternative education systems. We need to find ways to strengthen public schools and not weaken them by draining them of money and students.I support providing teachers and teacher’s aides with up-to-date information and training on programs and best practices on educating students with disabilities. I also support keeping parents well-informed on and involved in their child’s education.To that end, I have filed several bills to improve public school services to children with disabilities.
- Senate Bill 1490, which requires the Texas Education Agency to update the Guide to the Admission Review and Dismissal (ARD) Process to ensure that teachers have current information on the process by which an individualized education program (IEP) is developed for a student in a special education program and the rights and responsibilities of a parent concerning the process;
- Senate Bill 1491, which permits the Texas Education Commissioner to make grants, consisting primarily of federal funds, to school districts to cover the high cost of educating students with disabilities;
- Senate Bill 1625, which allows a teacher to be more involved in the development and implementation of a child’s IEP and to request any necessary training to ensure the child’s needs are met; and
- Senate Bill 1686, which allows parents and teachers to discuss and consider teacher qualifications and the need for teacher training with the ARD committee for their school. This committee reviews the special education programs and personnel for each school and helps establish the individual education program for each student who requires special education.I appreciate that you took time to contact my office. Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of any assistance to you in the future.Sincerely,Kirk Watson
Personally, I don’t think he’s that sincere. If he was sincere, he might have taken the time to remember a few facts before replying to my letter with his standard boilerplate response.
Facts like these:
The public school system already costs (at least) twice as much as private school, where teachers are selected by parents to teach exactly what and how the parents want. “Draining the school of students and funds” in that light yields a net gain to the Texas taxpayer, and a benefit to the children of Texas by allowing them to attend schools of their choice rather than forcing them into a one-size-fits-all, centralized, micro managed, antiquated system.
Looked at from another perspective, adding another facet to the already over-burdened bureaucracy in order to deal with special needs children simply adds an even greater expense to a government school system that is already cash strapped and in need of re-organization. Allowing children with special education needs to leave the government school system assures that these children will get the education they need without exacting a greater cost on a system that is already stressed to the breaking point.
Four bills introduced with the best intentions at heart, I’m sure. All of which will do exactly what I predict, increase the cost of administrating the schools by adding another facet to the already overly complex state school requirements. They will increase the cost of training teachers to meet every eventuality, rather than allowing them to specialize in the types of children they wish to teach.
Four bills, all of whose goals could be met, simply by allowing the parents to take their children and their money out of the system. Which is what the one bill, SB1000 will do.
Why don’t we do what the parents of children with Autism are asking us to do? Let their children out of the system. It’s the smart thing to do, for so many different reasons.