I sent a letter this morning to four people: President Obama, Senator Ron Johnson, Senator Tammy Baldwin, Representative Mark Pocan.
Dear President Obama,
Yesterday afternoon, my husband and I sat down with a team of seven educators and administrators to write this year's Individualized Education Program (IEP) for our daughter's upcoming school year.
Our daughter Joy is a cheerful, bright-eyed second-grader, full of energy and laughter. She can ice-skate, she can snow-shoe, she can manipulate an iPad like nobody's business! Joy also only speaks a few words. She has a sobering catalog of developmental challenges, including autism, epilepsy, and a rare genetic condition called Linear Nevus Sebaceous Syndrome.
The team around that table had been working with Joy since the start of the school year, putting in untold hours above and beyond the school day to make our daughter's education possible.
Tears threatened to flow as we evaluated Joy's phenomenal progress this past year, and pegged her reading-goal for next year to the emerging-skills level for first grade. First grade reading skills, for a child who as a pre-schooler was unable to imitate, unable to do a 3-piece puzzle, unable to follow most one-step directions!
And then we returned home, and read this evaluation of the effects of sequestration from the National Council on Disability:
* $978 million in comprehensive funding cuts would affect 30.7 million special education students.
* Funding for special education, specifically, would be slashed by nearly $600 million, reducing supports for students with disabilities to 2005 levels.
* Federal funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) will be reduced by 28 percent, totaling a loss of one billion dollars.
* Close to 15,000 special education teachers could lose their jobs resulting in larger class sizes.
Tears DID flow as we considered the impending devastation: to our daughter's progress, to the educational prospects of so many children with educational challenges like hers, to the future of so many beloved young ones.
Federal funding for the IDEA has fallen short of its promise ever since the program's inception. Our schools are already patching services together out of insufficient resources; in Wisconsin, the public school system is reeling from a massive two year budget cut in the last cycle.
We fear that this will be the blow that shatters special education beyond repair, and truly handicaps our daughter's future.
Please, Mr. President, please do everything in your power to halt these cruel, senseless sequestration cuts!