October 24, 2005

Autistic Children are Considered an "Unwanted" Burden in Temecula

A California school board member has finally come out and said publicly what parents across the country know full well is the way school systems think of our children.

"At a board meeting on May 3 of this year, Ray made a public comment about the money spent on autistic children[sic]calling them "the unwanted stepchildren under the public schools."

At a public meeting on Sept. 20 he did it again, telling the audience that the board is "stealing" from their kids to pay for autism"
This is not new information if you are the parent of an autistic child. Every single parent I know battles with the school system. I will be going to court next month myself to try to get them to pay for an appropriate private placement for Chandler, as the public placement they offered him was nothing more than day care.

They have a specific program for Autistic children in the San Fernando Valley. There are six slots. More than a million residents and they only planned for 6 of them to be autistic.

I call your attention to this article for an additional reason, to point out the problem with the idea that there has been no increase in autism in the last 30 years, merely an increase in recognition. Some have theorized that in the past autistic children were diagnosed as mentally retarded.

In 2005 school systems across the country are going broke trying to pay for special needs kids, specifically autistic kids. Were the change in diagnosis largely responsible for the rise in autism, then those special needs kids, regardless of what their label was, would have been bankrupting school systems for the last 30 years.

In fact most of the repudiations of the change in diagnosis theory have come from veteran school teachers who attest to the fact that 30 years ago they saw autistic children once in a blue moon. And once you see autism, you don't get it confused with mental retardation.

Here is the entire article:

Trustee blames problems on autism
By: Brian Hulihan - Commentary

The Temecula Valley school board is facing increased pressure and scrutiny for financial problems and program cuts. Board member Ken Ray has identified autism, a developmental disability, as a "huge hunk" of the problem, and as an answer to the question of where the money is going.

At a board meeting on May 3 of this year, Ray made a public comment about the money spent on autistic children, calling for a separate state agency to take responsibility for them, and calling the children themselves "the unwanted stepchildren under the public schools."

At a public meeting on Sept. 20 he did it again, telling the audience that the board is "stealing" from their kids to pay for autism, and that the results are cuts to band programs, physical education programs and raises for teachers.

He added that students with autism deserve services, but not from the public schools. He urged the audience to "get on Sacramento" so that the state assumes responsibility for all autistic students.

The Temecula Valley Unified School District has an annual budget of $150 million, and their financial problems are on the order of millions of dollars. In coming years their revenues will stagnate, their new schools will age and their mounting debt will, along with other factors, turn millions into tens of millions.

They are currently dealing with a grand jury investigation, harassment and wrongful termination lawsuits, and a growing morale crisis among their employees. The administration and board continue to deny that the situation is bad or that they have any problems at all. The position they take makes it impossible for them to improve, and they blame Congress, the state of California, special education, the grand jury, whatever they can find that is not themselves.

Ken Ray told the audience on May 3 that they "are not the bad guys here." In other words, they're the good guys, but that doesn't mean much. Perhaps he can tell us where the responsible guys are. The stand-up guys.

Perhaps Ken Ray sees the writing on the wall and is concerned as to what will be the legacy of the current board. However, publicly blaming a minority of children and setting the community against them into the bargain is an irresponsible act for an elected official. His naive suggestion that we just change California law shows he does not understand how discrimination has been outlawed over decades.

His actions shed light on the problems associated with autism, but they also raise the big question of whether he and the rest of the board have the judgment needed to realistically deal with their growing responsibilities. By singling out a small group of disabled children as the cause of widespread and systemic problems, he gives himself the appearance of a man who is in over his head.


Susan Senator said...

Shame on them. I became a school board member because there were no placements in our school system for my son. I would never allow anyone to make such outrageous statements on my board. It is not autism or disability that are the problems; it is a society that refuses to put a premium on the education of its children (ALL of its children). It's like the bumper sticker says, "If you think education is expensive, try ignorance." It is pennywise and pound foolish not to give all children the skills they need to participate in society in the future.

Anonymous said...

amen, susan. i totally agree and am sickened and disheartened by this california school board member's outrageous and ignorant claim. autistic kids stealing funds from the typical kid? oh, so only typical kids are entitled to an education? sickening.

Anonymous said...

yes it is a fact more and more autistic children are in the public school system the system that requires immunizations that might have caused the condition in the first place....

Anonymous said...

I was reading your comments about Temecula, and thought you were writing about Capistrano Unified. It looks as though the districts get their training from the same peopele. Have the parents in temecula thought about joining togethe. Are there any parent groups for disabled children in temecula?

Anonymous said...

Neither Temecula nor Riverside SELPA are going broke! Oook at how much they spend on attorneys each year to fight parents in the special education process and ask yourself if an organization going broke has funds to pay attorneys to fight parents.

Anonymous said...

I was so infuriated about this article that I went to the Temecula school district website (www.tvusd.k12.ca.us) to send Mr. Ray an email with my thoughts. Turns out he is no longer on the school board...hope that makes everyone feel a little bit better! It looks like he ran for reelection in November but didn't make it. Let's hope all the special ed parents got together to VOTE! The federal government needs to stand up and pay for special ed...but, until they do, local school districts are responsible. Period.

lovemom said...

I am new to the area. My family has been here a little over a year and this statement does not come as a surprise to me. My child was denied testing and placed in a mainstream class where she was not being educated and of course felt lost. She was literally lost a few months after enrollment. We were then transferred to another school That appeared to be a good fit. She was again denied testing so they had no idea what worked for our child. This placement came to a screeching halt after we found bruises on our child due to unlawful "restraining".
This has been such a strain on our family because they refused to simply give our child the education she is entitled to.Are there any private schools for autistic children in the area?

lovemom said...

In response to Brenda Rogers. I thought the same thing. They are spending more on attorneys to deny responsibility than they would have just doing their job properly to begin with. Our family has been dealing with it for months!They have a high paid firm fighting to keep our child from getting an acceptable education. It is heartbreaking and unbelievable! They are complaining of budget cuts,that money would be better spent on the education of students.