Special education worthy of funding

Students needing special education are often victims of underfunding from the state.

Sen. Mark Dayton’s legislation requesting federal funding for special-education programs in public schools was shot down Thursday. After recent approval to double President George W. Bush’s proposed tax cuts, the defeat is a letdown for parents and students.

With the $210 million that would have been apportioned to Minnesota public schools, Dayton hoped to gain 40 percent of the funding needed for the special-education programs in the state. The defeat of his legislation will force Minnesota schools to pull funding from other programs, hurting more students than helping.

When the Legislature decides to deny much-needed funding for special education, it is also deciding to take money away from all other aspects of publicly funded education. In reality, schools will be forced to find the money needed for special education somewhere, most likely involving taking funding from numerous programs.

Programs possibly at the target of the funding search are those for gifted and talented students. They will lose funds to the special-education and special-needs programs, creating a disadvantage for those students involved. The money needed to fund special education is hurting more students than recognized. All aspects of school life are repeatedly pulled from year after year to cover the necessary costs of running a successful special-needs program. If the Legislature would approve funding as it promised more than 30 years ago, schools would be able to fairly distribute funds to special-education programs as well as programs for the gifted and talented.

Students requiring special education are repeatedly the victims of underfunding. Society has a tendency to think special-needs children and families should fend for themselves, because, hey, it’s their problem. Families of special-needs students face high medical bills and a need to spend more time helping their children at home, often creating less time for work.

The funding Dayton requested should not have been defeated. The funding would even the playing field for all students, creating the ideal of equal opportunity public schooling is supposed to impose.