Americans across the country will go to the ballot box to cast their vote on Tuesday and it is this author’s opinion that if you are a parent or educator of a special needs child, the only choice in this election is to reelect Barack Obama to a second term.
President Obama’s record on special education has proven that he has fought, and will continue to fight, for funding for research, special education schools, early intervention programs, teacher training and mandating insurance companies to cover behavioral therapies for children with autism.
The President has followed through on his campaign promise from 2008 to increase funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) by providing $12.2 billion in additional funds through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. IDEA ensures the academic success of students with special needs and disabilities by holding schools accountable for providing the services and supports they need to reach their potential.
President Obama also signed legislation renewing the landmark Combating Autism Act, which provides funding for research, educational services and treatment for people affected by autism. The law ensures the federal government’s commitment to autism research, services and treatment, providing $693 million over the next three years.
In stark contrast to President Obama’s record, Mitt Romney, his running mate Paul Ryan as well as his party have pledged to make deep cuts across the board, including to education and special education. These cuts would lead to nearly $1 billion in budget cuts to special education funding, on national and state-by-state levels. This could lead to the layoffs of over 10,000 teachers, aides, and support staff, an additional $64 million in cuts to special education spending for preschool students, infants, and toddlers and would send 200,000 preschool students back home from Head Start. Moreover, research in special education, already facing budget cuts in recent years, would lose $4 million in funding, and overall spending on special education would drop to 14.5 percent, the lowest since 2001.
Romney’s major policy proposal in education is to enable low-income and disabled students to bring their federal funding with them to the school of their choice, which would transform federal programs that now direct some $30 billion in funding directly to the public schools that students currently attend. This would require an overhaul of Title I and the aforementioned IDEA legislation, which is unlikely to happen.
In addition to President Obama’s support for children with special needs and disabilities, he has also extensively supported education by:
- Expanding and strengthening Head Start and Early Head Start to reach an additional 64,000 children
- Establishing the American Opportunity Tax Credit which helped 9.4 million students and families in 2011 afford higher education and doubled funding for Pell Grants so more Americans can afford college
- Investing $2 billion in community colleges and proposed forging new partnerships between community colleges and employers to train 2 million workers for jobs that already exist
- Capping repayments on federal student loans at 10% of income; setting a goal to cut tuition growth in half over the next decade with a plan to expand student aid and work with states and colleges to keep tuition growth down
- Launching Race to the Top, spurring 46 states to raise their standards for college and career readiness, and has a plan to recruit 100,000 science & math teachers over the next decade.
It is evident that based on President Obama’s record of support for education and special education that he is the clear choice for not only parents, teachers and educators, but all voters on November 6th.
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