Letters to the editor

Letters to the editor

January 28, 2007

Schools comments need clarification

A letter published in The Sun on Jan. 21, "Story focus skews debate on schools," made some egregious statements about special education students and their parents that need to be corrected or clarified.

Fact: Special education IS expensive- expensive because interventions are based on specialized, individualized programs and services as necessary to meet the special needs of individual students. However, it's not discretionary spending for school systems - it's the law.

Congress passed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 1975 in response to court decisions recognizing special education as a basic civil right grounded in the 14th Amendment. IDEA mandates that local school systems provide special education and related services to level the playing field for students with disabilities.

Congress included a grant program to assist states in meeting their obligations under IDEA and committed to funding 40 percent of the extra cost of educating students with disabilities.

Unfortunately, over the last 30-plus years, the actual federal funding share has hovered between 8 percent and 13 percent and only recently increased to about 17 percent.

Accordingly, this funding gap must be filled by local school systems. Special education in Anne Arundel County Public Schools has been chronically under-funded. Superintendent Maxwell's fiscal year 2008 budget recommendation is the first step toward realistic funding levels necessary to meet current needs.

Myth: Special education disabilities are the result of negligent parents and bad upbringing. While the specific cause of neurobiological disorders such as autism and ADHD remains unknown, these disabilities know no racial, ethnic or social boundaries. Family income, lifestyle and education levels do not affect the chances of occurrence. Parenting certainly doesn't cause disabilities.

Fact: Twelve percent of students in Anne Arundel schools require special education services. That rate of special education enrollment is consistent with other jurisdictions in Maryland and nationwide. The county rate, is the lowest in 15 years and is down from more than 14 percent as recently as 2003.

This reduction has happened at the same time that occurrence of resource-intensive disabilities such as autism has increased by more than 50 percent.

The county school system is doing a great job of improving the focus of limited special education resources through implementation of efficient and effective programs and services.

Myth: ADD is just kids being kids. Actually, the term ADD no longer is widely accepted in the field of behavioral science. ADHD is a brain-based neurobiological disorder that affects 3 percent to 7 percent of school-age children and 2 percent to 4 percent of adults.

Fact: Students with disabilities face many challenges in the school environment and in the community. One of the biggest challenges is the societal attitudinal barrier reflected in the absurd and fallacious printed public comments of one misinformed Sun reader.

Frank L. Wise Severna Park

The writer is the chairman of the Anne Arundel County Special Education Citizens' Advisory Committee.

A good move on Annapolis High

Superintendent Kevin M. Maxwell called a meeting with every staff member at Annapolis High School, right down to the cafeteria and custodial staff, and told them that they needed to reapply for their jobs.

This comes after four years of Annapolis High School not meeting testing standards.

It was a great move.

The way I look at it, if you have done everything right as a teacher or any staff member, then you have nothing to worry about.

The test scores aren't always the teacher's fault. I would venture to say that they are not the fault here. Students need to apply themselves. And parents who aren't watching over their kids' education, need to start.

Maxwell's decision will keep teachers on their toes. But we still must always remember that teachers can't do it all themselves.

Victor Henderson Glen Burnie

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