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What Education Doesn't Need Now: Scapegoating

April 21, 2002

Re "U.S.'s Broken Promises Hurt Quality of Schools," Letters, April 14:

The argument by John F. Dean, Orange County's superintendent of schools, emeritus, that educating children with special needs is costing public school students $89 million may be politically expedient, but it also is divisive and somewhat specious. He fails to recognize that children with special needs are, in fact, public school students who are entitled to an equal education. His comment "no one denies that children with special needs will be better served when they are educated" would be soundly decried if "special needs" were replaced by a reference to a student's ethnicity, economic status or some other discriminatory title.

Further, he suggests that many privileges, including Advanced Placement classes, are lost to 90% of students because of the cost of special education. What percentage of students is enrolled in AP classes? Certainly not 90%. However, I doubt that anyone would suggest that offering "special" classes for the academically elite has a negative impact on the budget available for serving public school students.

I do not disagree that the federal government should ante up the 40% it promised to deliver in 1975. However, the federal government frequently passes legislation that it never fully funds. It is not just the federal government that is guilty of failing to adequately support public schools. Certainly, state and local communities also have been guilty of lack of support.

The broader issue is scapegoating. Rather than separating out special education as the villain in the budget shortfall, public school officials need to focus on the needs of all public school students and programs. Public schools are the foundation on which our society is built. They should be regarded and funded as such.

Marilyn Lambie

Teacher

Cypress School District

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