Guest Column: Special education children hurt by budget cuts

The following letter was sent to members of the Rockford Board of Education. The writer shares it here as a topic of timely concern.Due to space considerations, it was unable to be published until this time.

As the parent of a child that attends Page Park School, I am truly upset by the proposed staff cuts. If you reduce staff, you are reducing my son’s chances of quality education, as state and federal law require. His days will be reduced to that of being babysat and not taught each day he attends school. Every child has a right to education and should not be discriminated against.

The targeting of the special education programs as a whole is absurd. Each child and school has its own needs for staff and the number of staff needed per classroom. Would it not be a more productive attitude to look at each individual school and the children that they have to provide an education and services for rather than slash the whole program without any regard to the children who will be affected by these cuts? To deny these children their education is to deny them their chance at learning the things that non-handicapped children and their parents take for granted.

Teaching children is challenge enough. Teaching children with autism, behavior problems, mental impairments, physical disabilities, blindness and deafness creates the need for a more specialized classroom that requires more people to guide the children. Each of these special needs children cannot be lumped together and have their future dictated by dollars and cents. These children have to fight every day to gain inches on ground level; to throw obstacles in their way makes it impossible for them to grow and achieve even minor goals.

To make the decision of cutting the funding for Page Park School and other schools without seeing first-hand the challenges these children face every day and the triumphs that are possible for these children to achieve with the proper education, is to turn your back to the values you have as concerned parents and citizens. I urge you to take a few hours of your busy day to see the effects these sweeping cuts would have on our children and our community as a whole. A dollar value cannot be put on the welfare of our children. Our children who desperately need our help.

Carol M. Smith is the proud mother of Erik Smith, a student at Page Park School.

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