"A Mother's Advocacy," by Hon. Randall Howe, is a moving tribute to a mother who was ahead of her time in insisting -- back in 1969 -- that her child with a disability have access to an appropriate public education. This was 6 years before the IDEA, when smart, capable children like "Randy" were shut out of classrooms across our country.
As a mother, and as an advocate, the piece touched that part of me that sometimes wonders whether my efforts for my children or for others' children will ever make any difference. It reminded me that sometimes it's unclear in the moment just how our actions may ripple or reverberate, but to have faith that they do, or that just maybe, they will.
So I felt hope, the way you do when you just know deep down that good things lie ahead.
But as I continued to think about it, I felt a pit in my stomach. All around me, I see evidence of what appears to be a movement to turn back the clock to those pre-IDEA days: dwindling state education budgets; cutbacks and layoffs of special education teachers; voucher programs that provide incentives for students with disabilities to attend private (and often segregated) schools; charter schools that discourage the enrollment of students with disabilities and/or lack services and supports for those in attendance; the shortage of supply of special education teachers; the loosening of certification requirements for special education teachers...
As if all that weren't bad enough, in the middle of this horrendously resource-starved environment, we have special education students forced to participate in hours upon hours of high stakes, standardized tests, in some cases covering subject matter that is several grade levels above their current level of performance. When they're not taking tests, they sit in classrooms with so many students that the teacher cannot possibly provide the extra help they may require to keep up. Those who have the resources are removing their children from public school to avoid what some feel is state-sanctioned child abuse.
So I felt grief, too, the way you feel when you lose someone you love.