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Op-Ed: Lack of Consideration for Special Needs Grads in County Budget Is Disturbing

by RestonNow.com — February 17, 2017 at 11:30 am 16 Comments

Fairfax County logoThis is an op/ed submitted by Mary Nell Clark, a Reston resident and a South Lakes High School mother. It does not reflect the opinions of Reston Now.

The Fairfax County Executive’s new budget removes funding for youth with intellectual disabilities leaving Fairfax County Public Schools in 2017.

The people of Fairfax County are not that uncaring. You are not that selfish. I know because I have seen how amazing you are. But the County’s budget introduced Tuesday cut all funding for the youth with intellectual disabilities who will be leaving the school system this year.

The state has a program called the Medicaid Waiver, which provides support to Virginia individuals with developmental disabilities, enabling them to live and thrive in our community. But there are over 11,000 Virginians on the wait list for those services. My daughter, Beth, who has Down syndrome, has been on that wait list for years.

Because Fairfax County is a caring community, for years and years the Board has chosen to provide some support to those waiting for the waiver so that they can continue to be active after leaving FCPS. Each year, a new group of students graduates, and the county has realized that FCPS has invested and believed in them and we shouldn’t now abandon them to the sofa. The County has provided some support so these young people can continue to stay active, safe and, hopefully, find employment in the community.

This year, my daughter Beth leaves FCPS. Tuesday, we were heartsick to be told the County Executive did not think she or her graduating classmates were important enough to make the budget. But I know this is not true of our community.

Beth was born here and has always lived here. She was included in Terraset Elementary, Langston Hughes Middle, and South Lakes High School — with the support of amazing teachers and classmates. She was in a Reston Girl Scout Troop for over 10 years, earning her Gold Award — with the support of leaders and community members. She was on the SLHS Swim Team for four years and the Glade Gators for 13 through the support of cheering coaches, parents and friends. She was a part of a wonderfully inclusive SLHS Choral Program with Ms. G, and Dance Program with Ms. Girdy. She was “Defying Gravity” as she danced at Broadway Night. She was twice SLHS Homecoming Princess.

All along the way, the Reston community has supported her. She could have done none of it alone.

So I know that Fairfax County is a caring community. Can you please let the County Executive Ed Long (703-324-2531) know that we are? More importantly, please let the Board of Supervisors know that the budget must include support for these young adults as it has in the past.

Beth has spoken to Supervisor Cathy Hudgins. We know that she cares. Let her and the other supervisors know that we value these young people with intellectual disabilities and will support them.

Mary Nell Clark

  • Willie Reston

    “I find your lack of consideration for special needs grads in the county budget disturbing.”

    -Darth Vader

  • TheRealODB
    • ah

      Interesting.

  • Greg

    This is one of many reasons why Mrs. DeVoss is now our Secretary of Education. Hopefully you will soon be able to take your education tax dollars and give them to the schools of your choosing.

    • ah

      But then I would worry about schools that have more low income students getting neglected.

      • Greg

        No worries (as is worrying ever solved anything ever). Those schools should be closed. Public or private.

        The low-income students will benefit most from vouchers, and the overpaid teachers will sink or swim on their own.

        • ah

          Overpaid, meaning the teachers that slack?

          • Greg

            All of them.

          • Willie Reston

            “Teachers are overpaid”, said no intelligent person ever.

    • Guest

      DeVoss is a bad apple and her plans are both harmful to society and wasteful of our tax dollars. But, seeing that was the intent of her nomination from the beginning, I suppose she’s working as intended.

      DeVoss, a billionaire investor, seeks to replace public education with for-profit schools owing their duty not to students and the public but to shareholders. She seeks a cash cow, not an educated populace.

      Charter schools are a bad alternative to government-provided public education except where circumstances demand their use. Traveling families, issues of transportation, and social conflict are all legitimate times for distance learning.

      Charters have low to middling performance except where they are able to tailor their acceptance of students to tilt the field in their favor.

      Charters exclude students who most need the help of experienced teachers, refuse state audits, and consume state funds outsize to their benefit.

      • Scott

        Well, since Democrats, beholden to teacher unions, fight against charter schools and condemn inner-city, minority children to failing public schools and a poor education, I guess that makes you a racist.
        Why are democrats and teachers racist?

  • Confused

    My cousin, severely handicapped, went to a normal school and had average grades. She was treated normally like everyone else and went onto university also. There were no special handicapped programs, in fact she never considered herself a handicapped nor was treated like one. This is even true today.

    In the off chance to be called insensitive, but the mother here is asking for all kinds of support and fiscal programs, yet her daughter is a starlet in just about every category stated – so life is grand, is it not?

    • Greg

      Yes, and that’s the problem in Fairfax County. Everyone wants the government to do just about everything for them, but no one wants to pay for it — or, likely more accurately, wants someone else to pay for it.

  • David

    So Ms. Clark, tell us what program you would cut in order to fund the program for your daughter.

  • Scott

    Ms Clark,
    It would be helpful to understand what type of support will no longer be provided and how much money we are talking about. As a conservative, I want small govt b/c govt rarely works as promised, but I also believe in helping those that cannot help themselves. But there must be limits. What services and/or programs do you believe that your neighbors should be forced to fund for adult residents like your daughter?
    What item(s) in the budget should it take precedence over? The county spends over $4B a year. There is plenty of bloat and waste…of course, all of those programs are essential to someone and they would say it’s “selfish” to cut them.

    Final thought:
    If it is “selfish” to want to keep the money one earns, is it also selfish to demand the money others have earned? Careful about labels you casually throw around.

  • Edward Calvert

    This particular program has social merit though you might not realize it unless you actually have a family member in them. My niece has overcome severe autism thanks to special ed programs and montessori schools. She will now be a fully functional adult and live a normal and productive life (ie pay taxes). Someone I know has downs and works in a similar program, like the arc. These programs actually succeed in getting them jobs and making them able to live independent lives.

    I don’t know what the actual budget numbers are but at some point aren’t we splitting hairs ? According to the author there’s a 11,000 waiting list. The alternative, as she said, is to consign them to the couch. Eventually they’ll just draw a lot of social services and ssi, so is there net neutrality? I don’t know.

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