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Special Education

August 28, 1988

While the Democrats and Republicans tout their commitment to education in campaign speeches, California's legislators are jeopardizing the future of our 400,000 special children by holding their right to a free and appropriate education hostage in a partisan war ("Legislator Will Push School Programs for Handicapped," Aug. 20).

As a voter, I am appalled at this hypocrisy. As a taxpayer, I am furious at this misuse of my tax dollars. As a parent of two developmentally disabled children, I am outraged that our interests are not being represented by most of our elected officials.

Unlike the other six categorical programs under legislative debate in Sacramento, special education is not an enhancement of basic public school programs. Children enrolled in the other categorical programs could function as adults without the benefit of those programs.

The types of programs and services necessary to provide self-help and independent living skills to handicapped children cannot be offered under the auspices of regular or "normal" public school systems. That is why special education is special: It demands special facilities, special equipment and special people to teach and administer the programs.

This is not a political issue. In the largest sense, we each have a moral responsibility to take care of one another. Early intervention and lifelong education are vital to the handicapped child's survival in this world.

The lives of California's special children rest upon the decision of our legislators and governor to continue funding special education. Local districts cannot handle the magnitude of cost for these programs, and federal assistance could be threatened without California's reauthorization of special education legislation.



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