Monday, March 17, 2008

A parent's responsibility to educate; Missouri's responsibility to make it possible

Helping Children is a Parent’s Responsibility was the title of an insensitive, ill-conceived letter in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch today. The author says,


“At a recent Senate hearing on a bill that would provide tax credits for people who contribute to scholarships for special needs children to attend private school, one parent said it wasn't fair that the family had to make adjustments to educate a special needs child. ‘We shouldn't have to move and rearrange our lives to get what's best for our kids.’


Parents do that all the time. Surely, parents take into consideration the quality of a school district before they move into a neighborhood. Would parents have the same complaint if their child had a physical illness and needed special treatment?


As parents, we often are called on to make sacrifices for our children. The means are available. Getting children the help they need is a parental responsibility, not an entitlement.”


Aside from the pure disappointment that someone who purports to understand the needs of autistic children could so callously dismiss the lengths that parents go to educate a special needs child, I was struck by the pithy and non sequiter arguments the author gave.


I am sure that parents do take into account a school district before buying a home—but how can they take into account the endless possibilities of special needs their child could be born with? Many parents simply do not have the means to live in the best school district, as illustrated by the fact that there are tens of thousands of children enrolled in the failing St. Louis Public schools—surely that is a known fact.


What’s more, the means are not available. Parents have told legislators about multiple moves to find the right school district that could help their child, or of second mortgages, cashed out college funds and 401Ks all to pay for a private school that could help their child learn. That’s to say nothing of parents who have more than one child, or children with different disabilities, careers passed up to move or care for a child, the effect moving can have on some special needs children, and the sheer costs of testing and therapies. What else would the author have them sacrifice? When parents have exercised all of their options and still cannot get an appropriate education for their special needs child, there exists an obligation to give them another choice.


There is a plethora of tax credits in Missouri that assist families with housing, daycare, college tuition—this is one way the state can respond when a need exists that many families cannot meet. It is abhorrent to say that families who are seeking a good education for their children are doing so out of a sense of entitlement. They have advocated for the scholarship tax credit precisely because it is their responsibility to help their child succeed. That deserves respect and support, not scorn.


Finally, if it is a parents' responsibility to educate their child, then parents should be given a choice.


1 comment:

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