I wanted to take the time this week to reflect on a few things and get a little more personal about something that has really affected me. As many of you know, I have a passion for teaching that often overwhelms me, even to the point of tears, when I hear some of the sad stories about what is happening to kids with disabilities currently in the local public schools. For those of you who don’t know me, you will just have to take my word on this. This week I was astounded and outraged as my heart broke at another expectation that wasn’t met by a promise for something new.
On Wednesday I heard that a new private school finally announced their opening as an alternative for students with specific disabilities. I had heard the rumors and was hopeful because it was a mom who helped start it. Yet, when I visited the new website I felt let down and betrayed. The trend I see in the private school arena in our area is very sad indeed. The schools locally all seem to want the best and brightest kids, the ones who have high IQ’s and no underlying issues with behavior or remedial skills. When I see a school catering to a very narrow band of students with disabilities that probably could make it in the current public system, I have to wonder why they even bother? I ask myself, “Where is the school that will take a student at their level, whatever level that is, and create an individual program that truly meets their needs? Where is the school that isn’t worried about behavior issues because they know how to effectively engage and educate the kids who come to their school?”
Not only that, but the money issue is insane too! 20K, 30K, 40K or more to provide a quality education for these special children? They advertise low staff to student ratios, but then you come to find out that this number doesn’t reflect teachers or paras in the classroom. It includes staff that may be sitting on the other side of the building, behind closed doors, doing the business of the school. It is the numbers game and if you can somehow make your ratio low by manipulating those numbers, then you can justify charging more. Of course private schools don’t have to provide any services or special education. Which honestly doesn’t bother me because, if they are a good school and provide quality for their price, I believe they will thrive as families see the value in what they do. If not, then they will eventually close. What does bother me is if they claim to serve a population, yet when you get down to the nitty gritty they aren’t really serving that population at all.
So when are we going to see a real change? When will our focus shift from private schools for high functioning students to meeting the real needs of all students at a price that doesn’t rival the cost of college? I hope to address those questions in the next few months for families in my local area. It isn’t an easy road I have chosen to take, but my passion and desire to reach all students is important enough that I would gladly go hungry for a day to see just one of them smile as they realize they can succeed in learning.