Monday, February 6, 2012

Hearing Our Voices

Let's face it, there just isn't enough money for everything.  Needing more money for things, tangible or otherwise, is just a fact of life, unless you're some sort of mega-star bleeding enough cash to pretty much close off the entire maternity ward during the birth of your beloved daughter or trick out a new babymobile with enough bling to be seen from Jupiter (Beyonce, you know I'm talkin' about you...). 

County public school systems are no exception to the need for money, and the need for bucks at the County level affects so, so many people in a rather abrupt trickle-down effect.  Perhaps spalsh-down effect would be more accurate.  Our county announced recently that it was considering cuts to the Special Education teachers' salaries.  One such cut would involve reducing the hours-per-day of the Special Education classroom aides to make them ineligible for benefits.  These aides are incredibly valuable and brilliant resource teachers here, most of whom do what they do because they love the job of working with the children, not because they're making much money, which they're not.  The result of the cut would force many of these teachers to resign, causing less classroom support and making self-contained classrooms an ever-present, proliferating wave of the future, making an archaic jump backwards, away from inclusive classroom settings, and stunting so much of the progress of the last 20 years.

Last Tuesday the School Board opened their doors to an evening of public comment at one of their meetings.  This was the last opportunity for people to speak out in front of the Board before the decision is made.  Now as much as I, personally, would have loved to have attended, Steve and I discussed it and decided that he should go and speak.  I'm way too shy and know I would have instantly balked, and having a man, a father, get up there and speak out for his little girl also would likely make a bigger impact.  He called and got himself on the speaker's list, at number 53

The audience was comprised of approximately 400-500 people - teachers, educators, parents, etc.  He was a little dismayed to see very few parents there speaking out against Special Education cuts - the bulk of the speakers were bus drivers, another group being similarly affected.  He left after he spoke, and there were many speakers still to come, but of the 53, only about 10 were there regarding Special Ed. 

He got oohs and ahhs when he showed a blown-up and laminated photo of Sammi from her preschool graduation, and had a house-full of silent applause, arms waving furiously in the air, when he finished.  He was followed out by a reporter from a local NPR affiliate radio station and briefly interviewed, the audio of which aired the next morning, missed by us but heard and recounted back to me by a friend. 

Below is his basic speech that he gave, minus some effective ad-libbing, at which he tends to shine.  He has also sent an e-mail to the Board, something I am hoping all those who were absent or who did not speak that night have done.

This is a picture of my daughter, Samantha Elizabeth Bates.  Remember that name, because given the opportunity through education, she may be able to achieve things that would not have been possible without the dedicated Special Education teachers and aides in (this) County.  Please do not restrict my daughter's education by cutting any of the positions currently occupied and by not supporting other proposed positions.

My daughter did not choose to be born with Down syndrome, but she *does* choose to participate alongside her peers in reading, writing, playing and learning.  This would not be possible without the support and love of the great team of special educators involved in Samantha's life.

Samantha and students like her have the right to be given the chance to fulfill their potential.  Not just part way, but to the limit of what they are capable of achieving.  Samantha loves to read books, she loves to learn her numbers and letters.  She loves to play doctor and has told us numerous times that she wants to *be* a doctor.  That may not be a realistic option, but at least give her the chance to try, and don't restrict her education because of money and statistics.  You have the opportunity to make the lives of these students exciting and less restrictive.  They will have many challenges throughout their time in the school system.  With your help, they may just surprise you all.  I'm going to go now, so my daughter can read *me* a bedtime story.

Thank you for your time.

For those of you who live in this county and were not able to make it to that meeting, you can still submit an e-mail to the School Board.  Do it today!! - I think tomorrow is decision-time...  Fingers crossed...



18 comments:

Krista said...

Yeah! Bravo!

Team Lando said...

Give steve a hug and thank you from Ellie.

The Annessa Family said...

Tell Steve he ROCKS! And if those pictures of Sammi don't sway their decisions NOTHING will!

Brooke
www.TheAnnessaFamily.com

Rob Monroe said...

Love it. Great job, Steve!

Anna said...

What a great job Papa Bear. I do believe people would listen to a father more than a mother. My husband has had to learn to speak in public so I would vote him in for the job too.

Lisa said...

awesome!!!!

Rochelle said...

Awesome speech! Way to go Steve. Praying that they reconsider their cuts.

Anna Theurer said...

Excellent speech, Steve! It make me so sick to know that given the education budget crisis, the special education sector is being hit the hardest. . . it is being hit here in Texas as well :-( Sammi looks awesome in her graduation cap!

Jenny said...

Fantastic! You must be so very proud to be married to a man like that!! Loved his speech, it was perfect!

I hope they don't cut the funds that your area needs for the Special Needs teachers, that would be so terrible :(

lovemy3 said...

Perfect speech! I loved the last part about going so she could read him a story!!!! I hope they were as moved as I was by his speech!

Chromosomally Enhanced said...

excellent! keep speaking and voicing what is right! and thank you...when you all step up you do it for all of us! Sammi is a RocKStar...my husband is a educator and I have a close friend that is a special ed teacher and we need them all behinds the scenes is what I see the hours of preparation and constant furthering of education...the late night phone calls from students and parents...teacher not only teach they help advocate...smiles

gillian said...

Wonderful! I hope nothing gets cut!

Leah said...

Very proud of that Daddy!

Lacey said...

Go daddy! I know everyone is having to make cuts, but why do they go to special education first? The ones that need it the most? Why don't we take some money from the salaries of politicians, and from our "sports players" and put it where it should be!

Meriah said...

Go, Steve!!

teal915 said...

Love the speech!

CJ said...

Now THAT is reason to celebrate!!

teal915 said...

Becca, the more I thought about this, the more I loved it. Could I borrow some of your husband's speech to put in a blog post? It's basically a post about wanting Kamdyn to have the opportunities that anyone else has.