• Sun, Sep 7 2008

More about Gov.Palin on Disabilities

In the wake of Governor Sarah Palin announcing that families of children with special needs would “‘have a friend and advocate in the White House” as the camera panned to her infant son, Trig, who has Down Syndrome, during her speech at the Republican National Convention last Wednesday night, today’s New York Times takes a closer look at what she’s done and not done for disabled children in Alaska, and about what kind of an “advocate” she might be.

Alaska, both by dint of its sparse population and lack of resources, has often struggled to provide care and educational services for its roughly 18,000 children with physical and emotional disabilities.

For years the state shipped thousands of children out of state for mental health services, a problem so acute that Ms. Palin’s predecessor created a program intended solely to get enough services in the state to bring the children back; from 2004 to 2007 the number of children sent out of state fell to 300 from about 600.

While the state made a decision to close down mental health institutions in the 1990s, it has been unable to provide alternative services for children with mental health issues.

….

Ms. Palin recently signed legislation that rewrote the state’s school financing formulas, in the process dramatically increasing the budget for school districts that serve children with extreme special needs. “She had no role whatsoever” in the development of the legislation, said its author, Representative Mike Hawker, a Republican. “Her role was signing. She recognized the importance of what we did and endorsed it.”

Democrats have pointed, sometimes correctly, sometimes erroneously, to items in the state budget for the disabled that Ms. Palin cut. According to state documents, she cut the state’s Special Olympics budget in half.

The New York Times also notes that Senator John McCain voted to reauthorize IDEA, but also voted against “a measure, with nearly every other member of his party, to increase financing through a reduction in tax cuts for the wealthy.” Gov. Palin is a school-choice advocate and Sen. McCain is a proponent of school vouchers, “denounced by many advocates for children with special needs as draining public money away from special education programs.”

As the New York Times says,

To those in Alaska who work with children with special needs, Ms. Palin’s pronouncement was surprising; the disabled have not been a centerpiece of Ms. Palin’s 20-months in office or any of her campaigns for office.

Fully funding IDEA, the ADA restoration act, the Community Choice Act of 2007, the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Act of 2007: It will be of more than interest to hear Gov. Palin speak about all of these. (Go here to read what Mike Strautmanis, Obama’s Chief Counsel, has to say on these issues.)

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  • http://autisminsights.today.com My Autism Insights

    Hmm…I’d be interested to hear what she has to say about those things as well. Unfortunately what I actually expect to hear is a lot of sarcasm, mudslinging, and empty rhetoric. But I’m not cynical, not at all.

  • Chuck

    At least she has some track record. The other party can only offer political doublespeak with no realistic formula to fulfill their promises.

  • http://daisymayfattypants.blogspot.com Emily

    I don’t see her offering any “realistic formula,” either. She cut the Special Olympics budget?

    I’d already blogged this very briefly, but my response to this is, sure, it would be great to have an advocate wandering the halls of the White House, but I’m not willing to trade that in for someone who wants to censor books, who retaliates from a position of power against those who don’t do her bidding, who wants to teach Creationism as science in schools, who wants abortion to be legal only in cases of a threat to the life of the mother (not in cases of rape or incest, even of minors), who had the biggest state budget in the history of her state, who wants to drill drill drill for oil instead of seeking alternatives, who is the US Queen of Pork, whose husband is a member of a group that wants Alaska to secede from the union (oh, but Michelle Obama can’t say she’s finally proud of her country), who thinks she looked at the “science” of polar bears that is better than the science the decisionmaking scientists used, who doesn’t believe global climate change has anything to do with humans, who thinks abstinence only sex education is an appropriate way to teach savvy, cynical adolescents about their bodies, and who thinks that Miranda rights don’t apply as long as you label someone a “terrorist,” due process be damned.

    And that’s why I don’t want Sarah Palin as vice president. I honestly wouldn’t care if she were autistic herself. I still wouldn’t vote for her.

  • Synesthesia

    Don’t they all do that though?
    It seems like it’s a part of American Politics.

  • http://fearlessfemales.blogspot.com/ Fearless Females

    I’m kind of curious to how she has helped her sister (as an advocate?), who, I believe, also has a child with special needs–and who is 13?

    Does anyone know? Now that would be interesting!!

  • Synesthesia

    I won’t vote for her anyway.
    It seems she’s pro-tormenting wolves.

  • Regan

    What Emily said.
    Given those points of view, and considering that she would be the Vice-President to the oldest US President on record, I not only have to consider what she brings to the plate as part of an Executive, but to weigh the potential of her being the President and Commander-In-Chief.

  • http://www.autismvox.com Kristina Chew, PhD

    We’ve been weighing that very point a lot in our household.

  • Barbara

    All of our special needs children are going to grow up to be special needs adults. Many, if not most of them, are going to depend on Social Security for their financial support.

    McCain, and for that matter, every Republican I know of, want to “privatize” Social Security. Should that happen, and the monies that workers now put into the Social Security system be diverted instead to individual accounts, I ask you, where will the money my kid will need to survive after I’m dead, come from?

  • http://daisymayfattypants.blogspot.com Emily

    I’m not sure how Palin even *has* cachet in this regard, having never previously made special needs any part of her platform and being only a few months into special needs parenting herself. She’s not had to do anything with Section 504 or IDEA or FAPE, and I doubt she knows much about them. Never had an IEP or an ARD. She’s got as much experience with this as she’s got with…well, anything qualifying her to govern this nation. The people involved in special needs advocacy in her home state appear to be less than impressed with her track record in that arena.

  • Chuck

    “I ask you, where will the money my kid will need to survive after I’m dead, come from?”

    The same place it is coming from now and that system is highly flawed. The democrats haven’t suggested anything that is remotely better then what we have now. Under the original design of the SSA, recipients were only to collect for two years. A vast majority of original recipients paid pennies on the dollar they received in benefits and we have been in a constant state of catch up ever since. The age of collection has never kept pace with the average age of life expectancy and it probably never will because no one wants to touch that third rail. SSA has paid many individuals that have never paid, were married to, or related to a person who ever paid a penny into the system. In the original SSA design, IIRC, 1 worker supported 6 recipients. We are nowhere near that ratio anymore. How many recipients can 1 worker support before the workers finally say they have had enough?

  • http://www.autismvox.com Kristina Chew, PhD

    I’m waiting for Palin (and McCain) to speak specifically about specific issues, such as fully funding IDEA and what to do about issues of housing and employment; and to address the concerns of parents of special ed children in regard to school vouchers.

  • Regan

    Ms. Palin recently signed legislation that rewrote the state’s school financing formulas, in the process dramatically increasing the budget for school districts that serve children with extreme special needs. “She had no role whatsoever” in the development of the legislation, said its author, Representative Mike Hawker, a Republican. “Her role was signing. She recognized the importance of what we did and endorsed it.”
    ————————
    ‘Thought that was worth reiterating, since she’s the Governor and acts in an executive capacity, but legislative action is through the legislature, in this case via the,

    Joint Legislative Education Funding Task Force, which worked for 3 years prior to making the recommendations forming the basis of AK HB 273, signed into law March 27, 2008.

    Sponsor Statement: House Bill 273 .Education Funding.
    “Relating to school funding, funding for student transportation services, the base student allocation, district cost factors, and the adjustments for intensive services and average daily membership calculations; and providing for an effective date.”

    Base Student Allocation (BSA) : HB 273 will increase the BSA, which was current at $5,380 per student, by $100 per year from FY2008 levels for the next three fiscal years, from $5,480 in FY2009 (+22.3 million) to $5,580 in FY2010 (+$22.8 million) and $5,680 in FY2011 ($23.4 million.).

    Intensive Needs Students: Currently, school districts receive 5 times the base student allocation (BSA) for each intensive needs student. The bill increases that amount to 9 times the BSA in FY09 (+$35.4 million), 11 times the BSA in FY10 (+$18 million) and 13 times the BSA in FY11 (+$18.3 million).

    Other clauses relating to pupil transportation cost adjustments and district cost equalizations.

    What I believe can be fairly stated, as is done by Rep. Hawker(-R), is that Governor Palin did show support by not vetoing the bill or otherwise bouncing it back to the legislature, but the active leadership and advocacy was in the legislature and the work of the Task Force commenced prior to her tenure.

  • Chuck

    “I’m waiting for Palin (and McCain) to speak specifically about specific issues, such as fully funding IDEA”

    That would be up to the democratically controlled legislature. The only way Palin would have any say in it is if there is a tie to be broken. McCain and Biden both have decades of voting history on funding IDEA and it has never been fully funded during either of their political careers.

  • Regan

    Kind of OT for Governor Palin but perhaps on-topic for Senators McCain and Biden.

    Senator Biden’s response to Candidate Questionnaire from
    American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), ADAPT, National Council on Independent Living (NCIL), Self Advocates Becoming Empowered (SABE) Questionnaire
    October 2007
    [This was when he was in the Presidential race]
    and
    United Cerebral Palsy, The Arc and several other national disability groups sponsored a forum in November 2007 in which several presidential candidates addressed disability policy, including Senators John McCain and Joe Biden
    ROUGHLY EDITED COPY
    GSIL
    NOVEMBER 2, 2007, 7:30 A.M. CST
    PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES FORUM

  • Regan
  • Regan

    Grr–someday I’ll get the hang of this. sorry

    The Politics of IDEA Funding
    By Andrew J. Rotherham
    October 9, 2002

  • http://navimama.blogspot.com Navidad

    While I’m not a fan of Palin, I do support Schools of Choice. Which has allowed me to provide an appropriate school for my oldest child, with moderate special needs. One should think about rather than the money it may take away from the budget to the special education students who might have a chance to use it to get somewhere more appropriate for him. Granted, it does tend to get sticky with those with severe needs. The home district doesn’t have to send extra money; the choice district can turn down the student if the home district doesn’t send it – though I haven’t heard of anyone turned down, I chose a more expensive house to make sure I didn’t have to try it out…

  • http://navimama.blogspot.com Navidad

    I mean: One should think about the special education students who might have a chance to use it to get somewhere more appropriate for them, rather than the money it may take away from the budget.