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Jewish World Review April 11, 2001 / 18 Nissan, 5761

Michelle Malkin

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Consumer Reports

Not a good IDEA -- BURIED in President Bush’s liberal-spending, $44.5 billion education budget is a little-noticed proposal to increase funds for special education.

The budget item intends to help states and school districts comply with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The law theoretically guarantees a "free and appropriate education" to disabled students. In practice, it provides neither.

The feds spent $6 billion last year on IDEA, which covers an estimated 6 million students with physical, learning, or emotional disabilities. Bush’s budget allows states to steer up to $1.2 billion more in federal funding toward special education needs. Many advocates for the disabled complain that this commitment from Washington is inadequate. (In New York City alone, where disabled students comprise less than 13 percent of the school population, the annual cost for special ed is an estimated $2 billion, or nearly one-quarter of total education spending.) But more money will not fix the myriad problems with this fundamentally flawed government mandate.

A recent case in Seattle is illustrative. The Seattle Times reported last weekend that the city school district paid a woman $180,000 to keep her blind, autistic son out of the public system. The 16-year-old boy had injured a bus driver, a school aide, and several teachers. In fact, the Times noted: "He got off to a stormy start, head-butting a special-education teacher on his first visit. The teacher said the boy also grabbed a knife from a table and went after his mother, who wrestled it away from him."

Why were Seattle officials (or rather, taxpayers) forced into the unprecedented position of having to pay the mother off to remove the troubled boy from campus? Because IDEA effectively bars schools from disciplining and expelling disabled students for disruptive behavior, whether or not that behavior is related to their disability and whether or not the disability was diagnosed before the disruptive incident took place.

To make matters worse, former President Clinton enacted changes to IDEA’s definition of disability to include just about any kid with an attitude problem. It has been a boondoggle for lawyers and child psychologists-for-hire, and a nightmare for teachers and administrators. The unfortunate Southeast Delco School District in Pennsylvania, for example, took a double blow when one special-ed student (who showed "aggression with peers") set fire to a school cafeteria two years ago -- and then won a federal lawsuit last month blaming the school for violating his rights under IDEA.

In Richmond County, Ga., a special ed student repeatedly urinated on his classmates because he understood he couldn't be disciplined like his peers. In Fairfax County, Va., a student who brought a loaded gun to school with his friends went unpunished (and bragged about it) because he had been diagnosed with a "weakness in written language skills." Special education teachers in Missouri complained to legislators that they suffer great abuse under IDEA, and that compliance requirements leave them unable to tend to pressing educational needs.

IDEA’s concept of "mainstreaming" is based not on sound science, but on political science. Zealous activists, embracing a radical egalitarian agenda, pushed for the integration of all disabled kids into the public schools at all costs. But is such forced and illusory "inclusion" worth the price?

In the Seattle case, the disabled student had been thriving in a separate program specially designed for handicapped children. His violent rages had been reduced dramatically. When he was "mainstreamed" into the public high school, however, his condition worsened. The school district used federal IDEA funds to put the boy in a padded basement room for months. Other students ridiculed him as "the kid in the cage." The boy had no credible curriculum and no competent teachers – just a bunch of glorified baby-sitters and security guards who generated paperwork for the federal education bureaucracy.

IDEA has failed to integrate the most severely disabled students into regular public schools, redefined "disabled" to encompass incorrigible troublemakers, hamstrung school districts trying to enact effective discipline, and encouraged frivolous litigation. President Bush should walk the talk of educational accountability: For the sake of the children, don’t fund bad ideas. Fix them first.

JWR contributor Michelle Malkin can be reached by clicking here.


04/06/01: The Indian giving loophole
04/04/01: Bush’s baseball tax fetish
03/30/01: A child's nightmare in China
03/28/01: The Senate’s charity case
03/23/01: Humorless at Harvard
03/21/01: Hollywood’s Bush-bashers
03/16/01: Why is trial involving marathon torture session by gays against a teen being ignored?
03/14/01: George W. Gore?
03/12/01: Ralph & George & Fannie & Freddie
03/08/01: Sen. Robert Byrd, ex-Klansman
02/28/01: Backstreet Boy’s off-key crusade
02/23/01: Don’t fund dubious reading programs
02/21/01: Freedom and "the Freak"
02/16/01: Mr. Bush, give back this church
02/14/01: Torricelli turns on his friends
02/12/01: The FICA tax fakeout
02/07/01: In search of honorable men
02/05/01: Ally McBeal’s trophy baby
02/01/01: Mel and Bill: Bosom buddies
01/29/01: Gun shows under fire
01/24/01: American citizenship for sale?
01/22/01: Look who supports AmeriCorps
01/17/01: Some questions about Elaine Chao
01/15/01: What America owes me
01/10/01: Temptation and trash TV
01/05/01: Cop-haters welcome in Hollywood
01/02/01: Ignoring a hate crime in D.C.
12/26/00: Use ultrasound to combat abortion
12/26/00: Pardon Clinton? Just say no!
12/21/00: Smacking down free speech
12/18/00: Brace yourselves for Floridation
12/14/00: Blame enviros for electric mess
12/11/00: UNICEF's deadly mission
12/06/00: The Amish vs. the feds
12/04/00: Downey and the Drug War
11/29/00: Let the sun shine on the Supremes
11/22/00: Peace prize for a murderer?
11/20/00: Baby Boom parents are asleep on the job
11/15/00: Fog horns of the Fourth Estate
11/10/00: Who cares about election fraud now?
11/08/00: Ms. Houston, you have a problem
11/03/00: The Million Mom Murmur
11/01/00: GOP revolutionaries head for the hills
10/27/00: My impeachment referendum
10/25/00: Gore’s Good Daddy Gambit
10/23/00: Tribulations of a dubious 'tribe'
10/20/00: Pharmaceutical butchers of Beijing
10/16/00: How the West was seized
10/12/00: Fight the anti-pesticide pests
10/10/00: Moochers at the multiplex
10/05/00: Pay for your own day care
10/02/00: Not every senior demands a handout
09/27/00: Racial hype at the Olympics
09/25/00: Watch the other Washington
09/20/00: Textbook case of media arrogance
09/18/00: New York: Land of medical pork
09/13/00: Voices from the womb
09/11/00: No cure for generational pain
09/08/00: Notes on a West Coast wilding
09/06/00: Race matters at Washington Post
09/01/00: For those who labor 24/7
08/28/00: There's something about Rudy
08/25/00: A conservative case against Napster
08/22/00: Death Row Marv mocks justice
08/18/00: The party of Maxine Waters
08/14/00: "Make-A-Wish" shoots down dreams
08/10/00: Who will stop Bill Lann Lee?
08/07/00: Emily Dickinson's lesson for rude drivers
08/03/00: Leave the slogans behind
07/31/00: Hey, GM: Build cars, not quotas
07/28/00: Stop milking The Juice
07/24/00: Silencing Jeff Jacoby
07/21/00: Score another one for TV execs who want to keep us brain-dead
07/17/00: Can somebody say McStupid?
07/12/00: Beware of Ugly Building Syndrome
07/10/00: The miracle of a lead pencil
07/07/00: Partying on the people’s dime
06/29/00: When "Indians" exploit their own
06/23/00: Kids in a public school daze
06/21/00: Fed up with Fannie and Freddie
06/19/00: D.C.'s gag order for Christians
06/16/00: Dads, daughters, and PETA's spoilsports
06/13/00: Tune out Eminem's pitiful "poetry"
06/07/00: "Pained" Dem leader Torricelli deserves to feel some; Why hasn't he?
06/05/00: Tom Green's hidden health-care lesson
06/01/00: Farming out the pork
05/30/00: The perils of medical quackery
05/26/00: Awarding medals by race is a disgrace
05/22/00: Have Simon & Schuster execs lost their minds!?
05/17/00: Sports plebes vs. plutocrats
05/15/00: Whitewashing Red China's record
05/12/00: Our mothers' hands
05/08/00: Focus on the real Waco
05/05/00: An Internet victim's sad story
05/03/00: Phony pooh-bahs of journalism
05/01/00: Zoo tragedy triggers dumb reaction
04/24/00: Ecoterrorists on the loose
04/19/00: Beware of Elian's psychobabblers
04/17/00: The truth about Erin Brockovich
04/13/00: In defense of an armed citizenry
04/10/00: Playing hardball with taxpayers
04/06/00: Read W.'s lips: More new spending
04/04/00: The liberal media-in-training
03/31/00: Sticking it to the children
03/28/00: Declaring war on HOV lanes
03/22/00: Clinton and the Echo Boomers
03/17/00: Is Bush a Liddy Dole Republican?
03/13/00: Katie and the politics of disease
03/10/00: Maria H, Granny D, and the media Z's
03/07/00: Bubba Van Winkle wakes up
03/03/00: Double standard for day traders?
02/28/00: Sluts and nuts --- and our daughters
02/24/00: Zoning out religious freedom
02/15/00: The Baby Brain Boondoggle
02/10/00: Buddhist temple untouchables
02/08/00: CDC: Caught Devouring Cash
02/04/00: Hillary's poisoned poster child
02/01/00: Corporate welfare on ice
01/28/00: The silly sound of silence
01/26/00: The Old Media meltdown
01/20/00: The pied pipers of KidCare
01/18/00: Our imperious judiciary
01/14/00: Tune out Columbine chorus
01/12/00: Dying to be an American
01/10/00: Time for smokers' revolt?
12/30/99: Reading, writing, PlayStation?
12/27/99: Fight money-grubbing mallrats
12/23/99: Christmas for Cornilous Pixley
12/20/99: Who will help the Hmong?
12/16/99: Shame on corn-fed politicians
12/13/99: EPA vs. the American Dream
12/09/99: Look behind the Pokemon curtain
12/06/99: Amateur hour in Seattle
11/30/99: Stop the Ritalin racketeers
11/23/99: Welfare for a sports fatcat
11/19/99: Jeb Bush's political ploy of the week
11/16/99: Ben & Jerry serve up junk science
11/12/99: A monumental waste of our veterans' resources
11/10/99: Tax-and-spend schizophrenia
11/05/99: Spooky Guy Haunts the Capital
11/02/99: Mourning the loss of the last Liberty Tree
10/27/99: AOL goes AWOL on parents
10/22/99: The persecution of Harry Potter
10/20/99: Don't doctor the law
10/14/99: The trouble with kids today
10/12/99: Pro-animal, pro-abortion, anti-speech?
10/07/99: Beltway press corps needs more skunks
09/30/99: ESPN overlooks athlete of faith, grace, and guts
09/27/99: Personal freedom going up in smoke
09/15/99: Farewell, "Miss" America
09/10/99: Will George W. work for a color-blind America?
09/03/99: Feminization of gun debate drowns out sober analysis
08/27/99: America is abundant land of equal-opportunity insult
08/10/99: Protect the next generation from diversity do-goodism
08/04/99: Sweepstakes vs. state lottery: double standards on gambling
07/21/99: "True-life tales from the Thin Red Line" (or "Honor those who sacrificed their lives for peace")
07/21/99: Reading, 'Riting, and Raunchiness?
07/14/99: Journalists' group-think is not unity
06/30/99: July Fourth programming for the Springer generation
06/25/99: Speechless in Seattle
06/15/99: Making a biblical argument against federal death taxes

© 2001, Creators Syndicate