CHRIS POWELL: 'Rescue' money isn't raining on special education kids

Published on Wednesday, 22 September 2021 23:52

While billions in federal "rescue" money are raining down on state government and municipal governments and Connecticut's members of Congress bestow new grants almost every day, a report from Connecticut Public Radio last week suggested that a glaring problem is still being overlooked.

The report found that there is a desperate shortage of special-education teachers in Bridgeport's schools and those of other "high-poverty" municipalities.

The CPR report highlighted the experience of a 14-year-old Bridgeport boy who recently was spending most of his "remote learning" time in front of a blank computer screen at home because his special-education teacher was unavailable. Of course, such loss of education was pervasive throughout the state in the last school year as the "remote learning" attempted during the virus epidemic succeeded only for students with the most attentive parents.

Fathers of the disadvantaged students cited in the CPR report and similar reports are never mentioned, though their absence is a disadvantage as profound as any student's learning disability.

Bridgeport Superintendent Michael Testani blames his school system's shortage of special-education teachers on the inability to compete with the salaries paid by suburban school systems. Unfortunately the city's members of Congress – U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy and 4th District U.S. Rep. Jim Hines – and state and city government are bestowing the "rescue" money elsewhere.

But maybe attention to the special-education teacher shortage is a waste of time anyway. Connecticut's urban education calamity was painfully detailed five years ago by the decision issued by Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher in a school financing lawsuit. City schools, the judge found, knowingly award diplomas to ignoramuses, students who have learned little in 12 years of public education.

Like Bridgeport's superintendent, the judge attributed this failure to a lack of money. While the judge's finding that Connecticut's school financing system is unconstitutional was reversed by the state Supreme Court, no one could dispute the evidence he recounted about the calamity. The decision certified that social promotion is the one absolute if unacknowledged policy of public education in Connecticut.

Five years ago Connecticut just shrugged it all off, perhaps as people began to sense, if not acknowledge, that decades of raising education spending have made no difference to education itself – that the extra money has only purchased the loyalty of the teacher unions to the state's majority political party – and that the education problem isn't money at all but something else.

The CPR story gave a hint of this, observing parenthetically that "the number of children with disabilities has increased significantly over the last 10 school years."

Maybe someday someone in authority will inquire about the cause of that increase. After all, in recent weeks people have noticed a serious increase in juvenile crime, some of it outrageous, and even a few Democratic state legislators in the suburbs, usually apologists for the poverty factories operated by their party, have been forced to strike nervous poses of concern.

So where are all the messed-up kids coming from? And instead of spending more on remediating their broken lives, how about trying to identify and stop what is breaking them?

* * *

LIES STILL ABOUND: President Biden sensed he needed to look tough amid the debacle of his administration's evacuation from Afghanistan. So he had the military fire a missile at a car in Kabul and announce that a terrible terrorist had been killed.

But a few Western journalists remained in the city, still courageously doing their jobs. They found that the victims of the drone strike were actually an aid worker and nine members of his family, mostly children. Now the Defense Department has been forced to admit the error, if not the lie about it.

"Friendly fire" casualties are inevitable in war. Maybe politically motivated recklessness and deceit are, too.

But when Donald Trump was president the political left understood that the government is routinely corrupt and dishonest. Now that Biden is president, the left seems to need reminders like the horrible one from Kabul.

Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester.

Posted in The Bristol Press, Column on Wednesday, 22 September 2021 23:52. Updated: Wednesday, 22 September 2021 23:54.