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Name: margalit
Location: Massachusetts, United States Professional writer, educational advocate, opinionated ultra liberal mother of 18 year old twins, living life in the slow lane due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, and diabetes.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

I like helping others

I volunteer to help parents get fair treatment by their various school system. What I do is called Educational Advocacy work, and often it is incredibly rewarding. I have worked with families across the country, working with special ed kids that are not getting a fair shake by their school system. In most cases, my work is to help schools remember that they are required by federal mandate to uphold an IEP. It's very upsetting to me how many school systems feel that the IEP is just a bunch of 'guidelines' and not a ruling that can be upheld in a court of law.

There's a good reason why schools don't want to follow IEPs. That reason, shocking as it might be, is money. Good old fashioned capitalism in a not-for-profit arena. Schools only get a certain amount of money per pupil. It varies from city to city, school district to school district. That money has to be used for paying teachers salaries, building upkeep, heat and electricity, books, supplies, desks, and all the electronics used to educate your kids. It rarely covers even the standard costs, especially in places where the cost of living is high and salaries reflect that cost of living. It almost never covers the cost of special education, so the states come in to rescue each school system with money for special ed and extras. In our state, some of the money comes from the state lottery. Each town applies for the money they need to meet their budget. They don't often get it all, which is why every spring there are hints of layoffs, increasing class size, getting rid of special electives and gym. We all go through this regardless of where we live.

Because of how the schools in the US are financed, which reflect property taxes in the districts, there is little equity in the schools. Poor districts have less money to work with, wealthy districts often don't even have to turn to the state at all. Whatever the monetary outcome, special education is often run on a bare bones budget and it is the schools that decide to reject kids from the special ed programs even though they are certainly entitled by law to be included. The schools have learned how to snow parents by using intimidation, lies, and an unwillingness to give out information. Parents in better educated, wealthier communities have the opportunity to do research on the web to find out what the laws are. Parents that have no access to a computer and no idea of where to start due to the educational lingo flung at them by the school systems are at a severe disadvantage.

Those are the parents I try to help. I'm the representative that charges no money, works for single parents and often the underemployed. I want to help them get what they are due by law. I tend to win when I fight along side the parents. I'm big, I'm intimidating, I know the lingo and the laws backwards and forwards, and I don't take shit from anyone. Ever. I just don't.

Today I worked with a mom that has been totally bamboozled by her school district. The lies these people have put forth are so horrible and so illegal that she could beat them down with one hand tied behind her back. We went through her kid's records today. Rarely have I seen a kid more qualified for SpEd, both for physical and mental health reasons. The school has refused him an IEP. I am so outraged, so shocked by the treatment she's gotten that I really want to go to the school administrator and strangle her. It's just outrageous!

I tell you this because I'm on a mission. I am the parent of two SpEd kids, and I fight and fight and fight all over again to ensure that my kids get what they are entitled to. It is often a difficult fight, because the schools tend to forget that I don't take crap. They are wrong.

My mission is to never allow another parent to suffer from an uncaring and untruthful school system. My mission is to help anyone whose kids need support that they aren't getting from their schools. I do this because it's the right thing to do. Because so many people just don't know what their rights are, or don't know how to stand up to intimidating and often rude SpEd administrators. It's not right and it is horribly unfair. For the wealthy, there are educational advocates and educational attorneys. An advocate can and do charge about $100/hour. Educational attorneys cost around $300/hour. Can you afford that cost? Most families can't. Which is why I do what I do. Again, because it's the right thing to do.

If you have an issue with your school system and don't know where to turn, I will help you. I will do this because I never want another kid to suffer from a lack of support they deserve. I'll send you to the right web sites, teach you how to write letters that get results, find your state's office of education representative, and tell you what to say at your IEP meeting. I'll even do phone calls if you need it.

I will help you. I promise this from the bottom of my heart. No more hurting kids. No more administrators that push parents to the edge. No more. Just no frigging more!

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3 Comments:

Blogger Daisy said...

We bring an advocate with us to IEP meetings. Why is this significant? Well, since you ask, I am employed by the school district. It's easier on me if the advocate asks the hard questions, even if I'm the one who told her to ask them. That way, the bosses downtown don't see me as the bad guy, and my job remains secure.

26/3/08 1:49 PM  
Blogger Corrie said...

Go you! parents of Spec Ed kids need more people in their camp, thanks for the work you do.

28/3/08 10:29 AM  
Blogger Sasoozie said...

Hi, Daily reader, non-daily commenter.

I've forwarded a friend of mine your email address as she is looking for a Special Education Advocate. Her name is julie alailima.

thanks
Jayne

28/4/08 8:37 AM  

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