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Dad, Mom, and baby Meghan

Dad, Mom, and baby Meghan

Meghan through the years

Meghan's age

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Trisomy 21 trio of cuties

10 Things Every Child with Autism Wishes you knew

Thursday, February 19, 2009

ASBO International Summary of the 2009 Economic Stimulus Package for School Districts

Talk in our home lately has been about the future of education in the state of Arizona. To cut budgets in bankrupt districts they are riffing (reduction in force) teachers. Some have decided to cut their school days to 4 days a week; others are cutting clerical and support staff. No one is talking about cutting administrative staff; perhaps the bankrupt school district will use the stimulus money to pay these six figure income earners a bonus?

Tom teaches music, and being an arts teacher, he is concerned about his job, as are the other music, drama and art teachers in the entire district. Seems the three R's (reading, writing, arithmetic) teachers believe the arts are superfluous; never mind arts teachers also have DEGREES in education. Tom has a master’s degree in educational technology in addition to his general education and music teaching degrees. To the three R teachers, the arts do not make children better test takers...you will notice that history and science are also not a part of the subject areas schools emphasize currently?

Why can’t the short-sighted administrators see that math is used in science and music, and by taking both classes, children will use math in a meaningful way, that it reinforces their comprehension? Is it hard to see how art and math are used for creative yet technical jobs? History is important for all children to learn, yet it is de-emphasized during the school day; I feel that we must learn about our past to avoid repeating the same mistakes in the future, yet it seems that none of this matters any longer. They have science and history teachers showing students how to do a reading prompts for the AIMS testing here. Music and arts teachers tutor students in math during planning periods, a time when they should be preparing their classrooms and lessons for THEIR students. We test children to ascertain their proficiency, yet with the way teachers are forced to teach by the state, the children fail to gain knowledge of the world around them, as long as the test says they are learning, who cares...

Talk is also going around that the state of Arizona is going to return stimulus money for the floundering school districts to the federal government because they feel the teachers do not deserve it. Forget about the teachers, what about the students, what about my children, YOUR children?


Please, if you live in Arizona, call your state senators and congressman/women and express your concerns about the state of education in Arizona, especially where the stimulus money is concerned. We cannot allow this as parents, we owe it to our children.

Senators
Congressman/women

Not sure what district you are in, find out here: SEARCH

Prayers are appreciated for all of the teachers and therapists facing job loss.

You can read about the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and how it will be applied to education below.

ASBO International Summary of the 2009 Economic Stimulus Package for School Districts ARRA_ASBO_Summary 2_17_09.pdf

Of course we are concerned about special education in our home (for obvious reasons), and this is a brief of what the 2009 Economic Stimulus Package will do for special education.

SPECIAL EDUCATION

Legislation includes $12.2 billion for the Special Education account. Within the total, is included $11.3 billion for Section 611 of Part B, $400 million for Section 619 of Part B, and $500 million for Part C of IDEA. These funds shall be provided to school districts over the period of two fiscal years to help mitigate the reduction in local revenues and state support to school districts.

The Department of Education shall provide half of these funds on July 1, 2010. Within the amount provided for Part C of IDEA, the Secretary is required to reserve the amount needed for grants under Section 643(e) and allocate any remaining funds in accordance with Section 643(c) of IDEA as specified by both the House and Senate.

The amount set aside for the freely associated states shall be equal to the lesser amount available during fiscal year 2008, increased by inflation or the percentage increase in the funds appropriated under Section 611(i) (Secretary of the Interior).

The legislation includes $2 billion for the Child Care and Development Block Grant. Of these funds, $255,186,000 shall be set aside for quality improvement activities, of which $93,587,000 shall be for activities to improve the quality of infant and toddler care.

In Arizona Department of Economic Security (you may need to sign up for the online to read this article, it's free) is cutting jobs, services, and the amounts folks get through foster parenting and welfare.

From and article in Arizona Central:
DES describes services being cut, eliminated

Associated Press

Investigations of some reports of potential risk to children and vulnerable adults are among services and programs being eliminated or scaled back because of budget cuts, the state Department of Economic Security said Friday.
Other impacts include eliminating a welfare program for disabled adults awaiting Social Security benefits, reducing in-home services for 4,000 children in the child-welfare system and imposing a new waiting list for child-care subsidies, the department said in a list of "major staff and client impacts" from the Jan. 30 budget cuts.

The department released the list one day after it announced that 9,000 of its 11,000 employees face furloughs -- mandatory unpaid time off. The department also said it plans layoffs but said it wasn't ready to disclose many.

Furloughs and layoffs of DES staff means that agency "may not investigate 100 percent of Adult Protective Services reports" and would not investigate all reports of "potential risk," the lowest risk category for reports, received by Child Protective Services, the department said.

A leading child advocacy group called the cutbacks "extremely destructive to Arizona's present and future" and called on Gov. Jan Brewer and lawmakers to find dollars to rollback the cuts.

"The first step is to appropriate the federal economic stimulus funds fully and responsibly to restore some of the services that were cut. The next step is to put on the table all of the fiscal options including temporary budget strategies and revenue increases," CAA President Dana Wolfe Naimark said.

I have learned that Arizona Early Intervention is being cut, this program provides therapy for children with disabilities from birth to age 3, in addition to this news, I received this letter today:

Cuts in Developmental Disabilities Services for Infants and Toddlers

As a result of the most recently announced Fiscal Year 2009 Budget Reductions, many infants and toddlers with Down Syndrome, cerebral palsy, autism, mental retardation, and significant developmental delays will lose all their Developmental Disabilities services. These critical services include physical therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy and other Early Intervention supports. This group of children are among the most vulnerable in our community. As is well documented by a large body of research (National Research Council, 2001), intervention during the first few years of life is essential for these children to be able to have the best chance at being successful as they grow up. The rapid course of brain development during these first few years provides a window of opportunity for these children which can not be recaptured later in life. Early Intervention results in significant cost savings, due to a reduced need for special education in later years.

These cuts are related to the stipulation that individuals who do not qualify for the ALTCS (Arizona Long Term Care System) program will no longer receive State-Only DDD services. Unfortunately, the eligibility/screening process used to establish ALTCS eligibility was not designed to reflect the needs of infants and toddlers. It looks at functional skills expected for older children and adults (such as being able to be independent and care for oneself), and so infants and toddlers who will qualify as they get older and fail to master these skills do not qualify as younger children. At this point it is very rare for a child under the age to 3 to qualify for ALTCS, even if they have a diagnosis of autism or cerebral palsy.

Up until this current budget crisis, these systemic problems with the eligibility process have not had such drastic consequences. The long range solution will be to design a process which does capture the needs of this age group. In the meanwhile, it is of utmost importance to restore State-Only Developmental Disability services to these young children.

I received this letter today about a 65% cut in Music therapy for developmentally disabled children:

Due to the economic crisis that everyone is experiencing, DES has enacted a rate cut for ALL Qualified Vendors and Independent providers who provide services to individuals with disabilities. DES has stated that all contractors and providers will be required to take a 10% cut in rate. Given the current economic situation, this is to be expected.

However, DDD has singled out two services (Habilitation-Music Therapy and Habilitation-Communication) for additional, significant rate cuts for services that children with developmental disabilities are entitled to receive under Title 19. Music Therapy rates have been cut by 54% effective March 1, 2009. This is not a fair or equitable rate cut.

If this rate cut goes into effect your child’s music therapy services are in danger. Most agencies that provide music therapy, including mine, will be unable to maintain services with such a significant pay cut. It will make it extremely difficult for our agencies to survive on less than 50% of our current income and I will no longer be able to justify the amount of driving and gas expenses that I incur providing home based services in several areas of the valley.

We need your help fighting this unfair pay cut. I have attached a letter template for writing to your state legislators and urging them to address this issue. You can find your legislators and their contact information on this website:
http://www.azleg.gov/alisStaticPages/HowToContactMember.asp
You will need to write three letters, to your state senator and two state representatives. Please be sure to personalize this letter and share your thoughts on music therapy and how it has impacted your child.

AzMTA, the state music therapy organization, is working on other plans of action, including a rally at the state capitol, media coverage and education of DDD/DES officials. We need to make clear to the state the importance and effectiveness of music therapy. Any personal stories and testimonials you can provide to your legislators and DDD officials would be helpful. Please pass this information along to other parents, providers and special needs advocates, as the more noise we make, the more likelihood we have of saving music therapy services for thousands of children state wide. I will keep you updated with any other efforts and news I receive.

Thank you,
Erin Benaim, MT-BC

Meghan had been receiving music therapy, we had wondered why we never received a call to return, now we know. It is OK, we loved it,more importantly, Meghan loved it, but we did not get to attend long enough for it to be beneficial. I do wish we could do all we can for our girls with our own funds (a reasonable rate), but these programs cannot exist without grants from the government, despite parents agreeing to pay fees, it will not be enough.

Tucson families will not be able to turn to the Parks and Recreation department for alternative classes because the state is cutting those as well. Many of our lower income families simply cannot to pay the fees studio would charge for their classes (art, dance, music), Parks and Recreation provided classes for these families at reasonable rates. We do not know what the final cuts will be in these courses, but we are certain they will hurt many families and their children.

Do not forget that you do have a voice and you can write to your state government about these cuts. Maybe people making six figures can also take a 10-20$ pay cut too, just like my sons were asked to do in lower paying jobs. Those who are very well off could donate money to help keep important programs going. I do know that the way we were doing things was not working, and it is time to re-evaluate it. Instead of being reasonable, the government is having knee-jerk reactions to the economic crisis, and I feel they are making huge mistakes, mistakes we will pay for for many generations.

I know I wrote about my maternal grandparents before, they were migrant farm workers during the Great Depression. They learned to save and re-use everything, as did my parents, my grandmother had balls of twine and foil, and jars of buttons in her home, she had so much because she knew everything could be gone in the blink of an eye. I suppose you would need to sleep in a tent with 4 children to know why... I was raised this way as well (not not the tent, frugally), we have too much clutter because of the things I save. When I hear we have to learn to cut back, I wonder, from where? I suppose we could cancel our cable, Internet, and home phone? No but wait, Meghan attends school via the Internet, so no, we can't cancel the Internet, and it is part of a bundle, supposedly to save us money, but wait, they raised that price $17 in the last year, so it actually is not cheaper any longer.

We have cable because we no longer attend movies, the theater decided to charge for all children over the age of one last fall. That means we pay nearly $50 to go to a movie. we simply cannot afford it any longer. We attended our last movie at Christmas, and the theater was half full, you would think the management would get the message, if parents have to pay for children who sit in their laps, they will not come.

I have noticed the price of items at our grocery store have gone up by 10-15 cents or they are giving us less of the product and keep the price the same. when something is reduced by 2 ounces a serving, it makes a difference to a family of 6.

What we will do is plant a vegetable garden this year. I always had a large vegetable garden, but my energy was spent elsewhere for the last few years. I believe it is time to grow again. We will use our laundry water (we use natural detergent) to water the vegetables and will hope this will defray some food costs. I think co-op gardens will become very popular again. I would hope that families in neighborhoods would band together now and have pot-lucks, helping out other families who are struggling. We have become a nation who no longer cares for one another, but instead lock our doors and "nest" ignoring everyone and everything else out there. Maybe we are to partially blame for some for this mess too? My mother always said "Do not put all you eggs in one basket", well American families have done this for decades, we learned it was a bad idea, but then history has a way of repeating itself, do we ever learn?.

I am grateful that we have a home, have a reliable vehicle, have healthy children and good medical insurance. Have enough to eat and we have each other. I do not think we can rely on our government to bail us out of this, they seem to only care for the very wealthy and big business, and forget about the backbone of America, it's working families.

1 comment:

carol said...

Kris, WELL SAID.
I to think we are going to have to plant a larger garden I just pray the weather holds out. I am trying to find places to cut costs but it is so hard. You are so right maybe the price only goes up a little but the size has went down. Life is hard and I think we all need to stay together. Like Kris says band together and help each other out. We are raising our own chickens and gathering the eggs. Hopefully there will be a good day to butcher a few. Something I have never done.
God Bless you Kris.

I am going to look into making my own laundry soar. i saw a recipe on how to do it on the Duggars web site. I dont know if I can find what I need around here but i am sure gonna try.It would have alot of money. We also have to use pure and natural laundry soap due to daughters allergies.If you think of any more good idea please let me know.
carol

Beautiful artwork featuring children

Such a beautiful Video

I have a voice

Gifts video

WDSD