Feaga's folly Howard County: Councilman's remarks on special ed were ill-considered and wrong.

March 21, 1997

CHARLES C. FEAGA, the Howard County councilman, went way overboard when he accused the county school system of spending so much on special education that it has become a magnet for families with learning-disabled children.

That is utter nonsense.

For one thing, there is nothing to indicate that children with special education needs are flocking in great numbers to Howard County. About 10 percent of the county's 39,000 public school children receive special education services -- compared with the state and national averages of 12 percent. Sixteen percent of Baltimore's children receive such services. In addition, if the county is providing more than the minimum required, it ought to wear that distinction like a badge of honor.

The system plans to spend about $26 million -- 11 percent of its budget -- to provide services to these children in the next fiscal year. County spending on services to these children has increased in proportion to enrollment.

Indeed, Mr. Feaga is as well known for his fiscal conservativism as he is for his unmitigated candor. But it should be obvious to him that the cost of providing services to learning-disabled children is better spent now than later, when the price could be much higher.

Besides, if Howard is spending too much on special education, advocates for the disabled are not convinced. The school system must not veer from providing adequate resources, or going beyond adequate. As fellow council member Mary Lorsung

remarked: "We're talking about the future of this country, of this county."

Mr. Feaga says he is sensitive to the needs of disabled children, having volunteered for the Special Olympics and other programs for the physically handicapped. His longtime aide and advisor is disabled. His experiences should give him some sense that it is crucial to provide adequate services to children with physical and learning disabilities.

Mr. Feaga also raises charges that children are channeled into special education because they have disciplinary problems. Not true. Although behavior is a growing concern, a team of teachers and administrators determine special ed need based on factors other than discipline.

The councilman's rantings not only were deplorable this time. They were plain wrong.

Pub Date: 3/21/97

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.