Naysayers regarding Sarah Palin’s promise to be an advocate for children with special needs can
stand down for now rant all they want, but I’m still excited.
Earlier today, Palin delivered a speech in Arlington, VA introducing the McCain-Palin Committment to Children with Special Needs. The committment focuses on granting more choices for parents regarding the education of their child with special needs, and reprioritizing the federal budget so that IDEA (the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) will be fully funded for the first time since Gerald Ford made it law.
Many of you know that my seventh child, Thomas, has Down syndrome. He just turned three last week, and he’ll be starting preschool next month. I’m grateful for the existing services for kids like Thomas, but disappointed by the school district’s placement policy, which includes parents as part of the child’s educational decision-making team, but leaves the final decision as to where and how the child will be served in the public school system in the hands of administrators.
That’s why I was excited to read this:
In a McCain-Palin administration, we will put the educational choices for special needs children in the right hands their parents’. Under reforms that I will lead as vice president, the parents and caretakers of children with physical or mental disabilities will be able to send that boy or girl to the school of their choice — public or private.
Like John McCain, I am a believer in providing more school choice for families. The responsibility for the welfare of children rests ultimately with mothers and fathers, and the power to choose should be theirs as well. But this larger debate of public policy should not be permitted to hinder the progress of special-needs students. Where their lives, futures, and happiness are at stake, we should have no agenda except to ease the path they are on. And the best way to do that is to give their parents options.
I want options for each of my kids. Some of them are profoundly gifted, others more typical in their academic intelligence. Each of them deserves better education than they’re getting. But none of them need better education more than Thomas. None of them need my involvement more than Thomas. Parents, not administrators, should determine the educational fate of children with special needs–and I’m profoundly grateful that McCain and Palin agree.