No matter how hard our government tries to solve the problem by funding programs within public schools to serve the learning disabled, there is a key missing element of financially supporting these students at home as well as in school. With the future of these students at stake, we urge citizens to champion legislation that will provide the necessary programs to allow parents to continue at home what their children learn at school by offering practical as well as emotional support for the learning disabled.
According to the official California state budget for fiscal year 2013-14, over $56 billion will be spent on education. Of that total, $357 million is targeted specifically for the benefit of mental health services for special education students. Even with an added $69 million from the federal government, the percentage of total education funds spent on the learning disabled is only 0.76 percent. Yet according to the latest figures from the National Center for Education Statistics, the percentage of students with learning disabilities who are served in public schools is 4.9 percent of the total student population.
Clearly, the disparity between the two percentages calls for an increase of funds specifically targeted for the learning disabled. It’s a matter of both urgency and fairness. Why shouldn’t those learning disabled students receive the same percentage of funding that those of us more fortunate than them receive? And if you successfully advocate for such a balance, why not dedicate those additional funds to helping parents help their children?
All the government funding in the world won’t help a learning disabled student who comes home from school each day to face the further challenges of homework without the benefit of trained teachers to help at night the way they received help during the school day. The Frostig Center of Pasadena recently published the results of its 20-year study that identified the six “life success” attributes of the learning disabled: self-awareness, proactivity, perseverance, goal setting, support systems and emotional coping strategies. Using the Frostig example as a model, the government could fund a program to have parents learn free of charge from professional teachers how to better deal with their children at home in each of those six categories.
Think about the difference in, say, a learning disabled student’s perseverance if he or she can receive the same kind of specialized help with a math problem or a science project or an English essay at home that he or she receives at school. Parents are naturally equipped to handle the loving support for their children. They need help, however, to provide the technical support. We want 4.9 percent - the exact percentage of students with specific learning disabilities in public schools - of the California education budget spent for learning disabled students and their families.