At two recent town hall meetings, both Barack Obama and John McCain reiterated their desire to see more money go to special education. Obama’s comments, made Aug. 19 in Raleigh, N.C., were posted on YouTube:
An audience member told Obama, a Democrat, about her experiences with her 3-year-old son, who has Down syndrome. She said she was told by doctors that her son was lucky to be getting benefits because he “wasn’t really going to be anything in life.” She then asked Obama his views on the word “retardation” and on including children with disabilities in daily life. A partial transcript of his response:
In terms of terminology...I think the world retardation is backwards, that's old, we need to put that to bed...Substantively, one of the great victories of the last 30 years has been a change in attitudes towards disabilities. It used to be that people weren't going to get the kinds of services that they needed... Unfortunately, though, we still don't fund these provisions adequately. And nowhere is that more true than in the education system...that is why I have said that as president, my goal will be to achieve full funding of special education because no child is disposable, every child is special and we should make sure that we have resources in place without taking funding from other children....
McCain’s comments came during an Aug. 20 town hall meeting in Las Cruces, N.M. You can go right to his comments by searching on “special education,” but here’s an excerpt:
But I'd also like to mention one other aspect of the issue of education, two points. One, No Child Left Behind needs to be reauthorized. We need to learn the lessons. We don't need to discard it completely. The second thing is, one, a terrible thing that's happened in America recently, as I know you all know, is the rise of autism. We don't know. We don't know what causes it. There's a huge debate going on now about vaccinations. And I've read and studied and gotten briefings, and I don't know all the answers. But I do know it's a fact that autism is on a dramatic rise in the United States of America. And we've got to find the cause of it. But, meanwhile, we're going to have to increase funding for special education. I mean, it's just -- it's just a fact. And that's expensive, but it seems to me the kind of country we are, that that should have one of our priorities, along with our most gifted.
Notice that McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, stays away from the topic of autism and vaccines, which he waded into a few months ago.
Thanks to the Disability News blog run by Patricia E. Bauer for both of those links.
A version of this news article first appeared in the On Special Education blog.