Sunday, March 2, 2008

$300,000 in the bank?

Margaret Donnelly has spoken briefly about her bid for Attorney General of Missouri, but I have a few nagging concerns. Donnelly has come out swinging (if indirectly) at the special needs legislation proposed in both the house and the senate. HB 1886 would create a tuition tax credit scholarship for special needs students in Missouri, and would allow them to transfer to another public or private school where they could get an education that better fits their extenuating circumstances. If we can take Donnelly at her word, she’ll continue her hard-headed fight against anything that might threaten the imperviousness of the public schools. She’ll continue to do what she’s always done and turn a blind eye to the fact that Missouri’s schools cannot possibly meet the needs of every developmentally disabled or Autistic child.

Rep. Donnelly puts her campaign finance pool at a perky $300,000. Let’s contrast that to the costs facing parents and guardians of autistic children for just a second.

The Harvard School of Public Health puts the total lifetime cost of caring for an individual with autism around $3.2 million. That’s just one person! Caring for all citizens with autism is a $35 billion-a-year tab, and research is sorely underfunded compared to other high-cost diseases and disorders. Autism is growing in prevalence at an alarming rate, and we are not doing enough as a country and as a state to respond to this problem. While Margaret Donnelly is concerned about protecting the public schools, she leaves children with autism vulnerable. The estimated rate of growth of autism diagnoses is between 10% and 17%, and no matter how much money we are able to designate to public schools and their special needs programs, public education will never be able to handle that increase in students.

Looking the other way while parents take on the financial burden of a special needs child isn’t a great way to become know as “the people’s attorney.”

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