Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Call To Action From a Concerned Parent

This open letter from an anonymous parent in the Valley was sent to all social justice minded activists in order to spread awareness and agitate people to action!

Educate Every Child! It's that simple.I am a public school father. I have a child in Special Education and a child in General Education. I have received papers from a source at my elementary school that glaringly reveal the plans and completely callous attitude towards our Special Needs program in the public schools by Superintendent Ramon Cortines. The documents are damning for so many reasons. The planned changes show a complete lack of preparation and thought. The plans illustrate the desperation of LAUSD to cut costs at all costs. It seems that there is one thing that has been conveniently left out of all of the proposed cuts. That would, of course, be any thought for our children. 

I spent 40 minutes on the phone with Cheryl Krohn. She is the Head of the Special Education Dept. in District 1. After explaining my concerns she took me through the reality of the situation and it is even worse than I had previously stated. Ramon C. Cortines, The Superintendent of LAUSD has mandated that District 1 and 2 close 64 Special Ed classes. These districts make up the valley. They had originally been told to close 27 in District 1 and 22 in District 2 and Cortines has added to that number. More will probably be added. Pink slips have already gone out. As a matter of fact Ms. Krohn informed me that she (the head of district 1) had received a pink slip as well. 

Ms. Krohn told me that when she was mandated to close 27 classrooms she voiced her concerns to her superiors. She said that "she didn't know how she could do it" and that "she thought it was crazy." Her superiors told her that the per class Norm had to be increased. The only exception was autism. That exception has since been lifted. In fact, she informed me that in the fall there will be an Autistic class in a high-school in her district with 19 students in it. I told her this was a human rights violation. She did not object to that statement. She said that LAUSD is in a crisis and that the way we look at public education will change. She anticipates much forced retirement and attrition in the field of special education in the coming year. This is a disaster in the making. Actually it is a disaster.

There has been a reluctance from LAUSD officials to write about this for fear that parent groups and attorneys will have time to intervene. Officials at the schools are obviously very concerned. The school officials I have spoken with have eloquently voiced their concerns to downtown and have received only obligatory replies. There is a mention of busing in these documents. In an email from Cheryl Krohn it states that the children will be bused to “appropriate alternative locations”. Pressing for further information, school officials verbally voiced their deep concern about the children in their special needs program and about where they would go. LAUSD simply stated that "they had no plans as of yet" and that the only certainty is that "they would be bused." I am also told there has been pressure to deny service and to move children that are not ready from Special Education into General Education. This completely irresponsible act will not only endanger these special needs children but also take up valuable time from an already overtaxed teacher giving her less time and resources to teach her "typical" children.

In an already heavily weighted IEP system these changes will certainly be disastrous. Lower income and ESL (English as a Second Language) parents who are already wildly unrepresented will surely be completely lost now. Getting services to special needs children must be a priority. LAUSD continues to think like bean counters without any thought about our children. This is a human rights emergency. We need these people to understand that these cuts border on child abuse. We need these people to understand that early education and special needs services are paramount to the futures of these children and to our nations future. We need them to realize that paying for 15 years of services for special needs children will save them from taking care of a large majority of them for 60+ years. That giving them this precious help in their formative years will give them the strength to become vibrant contributing adults. We're not just talking Autism here, which effects 1 out of 70 boys. Special Education includes a wide range of conditions including ADD, ADHD, and Down Syndrome to name a few. 

This is a call to action! Let's be very noisy about this. We can't let this stand. Call and write Ramon Cortines and let him know that arbitrary cuts to special ed programs are not acceptable. They are, brick by brick, dismantling everything that has been built since the landmark Chanda Smith Decision. Please help me bring this story out and try and change things. We can't let this happen to our kids and the people who are dedicated to helping them.


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