Disability

Cutting Special Olympics is a Smoke Screen: Here’s Where the Real Issues Are

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Secretary of Education (and champion of no education) Betsy DeVos is proposing to completely eliminate all $18 million of government funding for Special Olympics and then pump $60 million into Charter schools.

At the same time, the Trump administration is trying to completely eliminate the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) and slash Social Security.

This affects us in the disability community by:

1. Charter Schools Discriminate

One thing a lot of people are not aware of is that Charter schools do not have to take kids with disabilities. They run along similar lines as private schools (which also do not have to take kids with disabilities).

The IDEA (see below) is the law upon which IEP’s are built. It makes sure that our kids (and ourselves) get what they are entitled to: a free and appropriate education in the least restrictive environment.

The IDEA is behind all public schools, but even though Charter schools run on public funds, they operate with private rules.

If a Charter school does not see a child with a disability as a good fit, they do not have to accept them. Furthermore. Charter schools do not need to follow an Individual Education Plan (IEP)!

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a four-part (A-D) piece of American legislation that ensures students with a disability are provided with Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) that is tailored to their individual needs. IDEA was previously known as the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EHA) from 1975 to 1990. In 1990, the United States Congress reauthorized EHA and changed the title to IDEA (Public Law No. 94-142). Overall, the goal of IDEA is to provide children with disabilities the same opportunity for education as those students who do not have a disability.

IDEA is composed of four parts, the main two being part A and part B.[1] Part A covers the general provisions of the law; Part B covers assistance for education of all children with disabilities; Part C covers infants and toddlers with disabilities, including children from birth to age three; and Part D consists of the national support programs administered at the federal level. Each part of the law has remained largely the same since the original enactment in 1975.

In practice, IDEA is composed of six main elements that illuminate its main points. These six elements are: Individualized Education Program (IEP); Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE); Least Restrictive Environment (LRE); Appropriate Evaluation; Parent and Teacher Participation; and Procedural Safeguards. To go along with those six main elements, there are also a few other important components that tie into IDEA: Confidentiality of Information, Transition Services, and Discipline. Throughout the years of IDEA’s being reauthorized, these components have become key concepts when learning about IDEA. (Wikipedia)

2. Eliminating the Affordable Care Act

One of the greatest things that the ACA has done for our disability community is NOT discriminate based on pre-existing conditions.

That means that we won’t be denied health insurance because we already have a disability.

The Trump administration wants to completely eliminate the ACA and replace it with nothing. The only thing left on the table if the ACA is gone will be private health insurance, which as we all know, is exclusive, won’t accept people with preexisting conditions and will only kick in after we’ve made massive co-pays.

3. The Safety Net is Being Burned

Massive cuts are being proposed to Social Security – read about them here on the Consortium of Citizens with Disabilities.

The bottom line with all of the cuts is that Trump’s proposed 2019 budget cuts over $83 billion in Social Security spending over 10 years, including over $70 billion in cuts to Social Security and SSI disability benefits.

Social Security is our national safety net, protecting our most vulnerable: the elderly, children and people with disabilities who need it. Cuts such as what the Trump administration are proposing are not simply making lives less easy; they can actually kill. People who receive Social Security benefits are already living below the poverty line; reducing what little they already have can literally threaten their lives.

The Focus on Special Olympics

The specific piece that the government funds that is being proposed to being cut is the Special Olympic’s unified sports program, which supports schools in integrating students with intellectual disabilities into their general sports programs. Read more about what is specifically being proposed here.

These programs are valuable and also beloved  to the intellectually disabled community. They matter.

But Special Olympics receives over $400 million in private donations. 

If the government does (as I doubt it even will) remove the $18 million that it is proposing to remove, Special Olympics will still exist. It will still have $400 million to operate on.

But if the government takes away the larger pieces here, the ACA and slashes to Social Security, these programs WILL NOT EXIST. There is nothing to replace them. There is no cushion of $400 million for Social Security or for the ACA.

What is Happening Here: Smokescreens & Divisions

Social Security and a healthcare system such as the ACA that is affordable and does not discriminate based on pre-existing conditions are obviously more important than school sports programs.

I don’t think I need to get into the why’s of that: we all know the safety net that Social Security is supposed to provide and healthcare is absolutely vital and when it comes down to it, is necessary for life.

But let’s not get fooled by what this administration is trying to do!

Consciously or intentionally or not, we are becoming divided into discussions on what is more important.

We are arguing all over social media on how Special Olympics is so awesome and how our kids were so positively impacted by it. We are posting about the pictures that Sara Weir of the NDSS took with Betsy DeVos, prizing photo opportunities over advocacy. We are talking about how much we need the ACA and/or Social Security but we are NOT uniting and absolutely demanding that none of these be cut!

WE DON’T NEED TO PICK AND CHOOSE

There is room for all.

We do not have to – and should not – cut Special Olympics. Nor should we cut Social Security or eliminate the ACA.

The budget of the United States of American does not need to be balanced on the backs of the poor or by slashing  services, community or health.

The rich are currently enjoying tax breaks on their second homes! 

Can we all please understand that when the Trump administration is threatening to cut things that we care deeply about and that we know are important to our health, life and community, WE DO NOT NEED TO CHOOSE.

We can instead realize that this stuff is happening to allow for those tax breaks on second homes.

We need to see this for what it is: a smokescreen that makes it harder for us to see what is really going on, and also a tactic to divide us so that we squabble over these bits and pieces of meal while they go ahead and slaughter the flock.

PS

Editing this to add that Sara Weir of the NDSS has shown where her priorities are, time and again and those have never actually been with the people she supposed to be serving (remember this post about NDSS at the table? Yeah, well…).  She should be held accountable for her actions.

This post is also not about saying that it’s okay to slash out the $18 million that the Special Olympics receives from the government: I’m saying that I think we should recognize what is going on here: we don’t need to talk about how Special Olympics needs to be saved and not pay attention to the drive to eliminate the ACA and slash Social Security.

Rather, I think we should work together to make sure NOTHING is cut, and to remember that while we are getting upset over Sara Weir and Special Olympics, all of this other stuff is quietly being put on the butchering block.

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Meriah
Meriah Nichols is a career counselor, teacher and blogger. Single mom to 3 (one with Down syndrome, one gifted 2E), she is also a cat-loving Trekkie who likes her coffee hot and black.
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4 Comments

  1. Shawne Albero Reply

    I respect your advocacy and writing. Absolutely. However, your assertion that charter schools do not have to follow federal and state laws on disability, particularly IDEA and Section 504, is incorrect. Charter schools frequently do NOT follow the law, they do not provide necessary and appropriate services, and have discriminated against students with disabilities. No argument here. But to say that they “don’t have to adhere” to the laws gives readers and parents the wrong information and may discourage them from pursuing their child’s right to FAPE.
    Here is the Guidance on Charter Schools and IDEA from the feds:
    https://www2.ed.gov/policy/speced/guid/idea/memosdcltrs/faq-idea-charter-school.pdf

    Here is the Guidance on Section 504:
    https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/dcl-faq-201612-504-charter-school.pdf

    This is the “Know Your Rights” document for parents:
    https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/dcl-factsheet-201612-504-charter-school.pdf

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