The Edmond Sun

Opinion

December 6, 2013

Grandparents of disabled child ‘now have hope’

EDMOND — An Oklahoma scholarship program for special-needs children is once again under attack.

“A motley crew of plaintiffs has filed a lawsuit asking the Oklahoma courts to toss out the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship for students with disabilities,” writes Oklahoma City University law professor Andrew Spiropoulos. “This renewed attempt to sever a lifeline for a small group of disabled students is vindictive because these plaintiffs know that these children suffered horribly in public schools. The program enables these children to escape an environment of bullying, ineffective instruction, and profound neglect and find specialized schools where they can blossom and reveal the beauty of their true nature.”

One of the plaintiffs, longtime public-school superintendent Clarence G. Oliver Jr., professes not to understand why any parent would want to choose anything other than a public school. After all, “there are steps all along the way for parents to appeal” if they’re not satisfied with their public-school experience, he told Dan Thomas of KOCO-TV, the ABC affiliate in Oklahoma City. “The special education program offered in public schools, in my opinion, is superior to anything that they’ll find in the private schools.”

That’s an odd claim (given that only 6 of every 100 Oklahoma fourth-graders with disabilities are proficient readers), and it’s certainly not persuasive to several parents of special-needs children. Parents such as Tom Farrell, who writes in the Tulsa World: “Only a truly challenged child, who needs more help than the public schools can provide to become independent and productive, would motivate a parent to take them to a special-needs school far from their own neighborhood. Merely visiting Town and Country School produces an emotional response in any normal parent. Sweet, gentle-hearted children who simply weren’t prospering in public schools are getting the love, help, and affirmation that they desperately need from teachers and peers. … It is a godsend for them.”

To see for yourself what Mr. Farrell means, just go to YouTube and type in “Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship Stories.”

Or consider the words of Robert and Cathy Hansen, the loving grandparents of Dylan Pennington, who uses a Henry scholarship to attend Trinity School in Oklahoma City: “Dylan has been diagnosed as autistic (on the spectrum), dyslexic, and dysgraphic. Dylan previously attended an Oklahoma City Public School where he was under an IEP (Individualized Education Program) from age 3 to 9. Each year he attended this school, he seemed to fall farther and farther behind, both educationally and socially. He received very little help with his learning difficulties and absolutely no help with socialization issues. He did receive strong support at home with completion of homework and other tasks but that was not enough. The educational system was failing him.

“Meetings were held regularly on the IEP and steps were agreed on but never taken. More meetings were held and changes to the IEP were discussed but never made and again there was no action. The last year he was in a public school he was assigned to a teacher who was rarely in the classroom. He had a series of substitute teachers and subsequently no consistency in his class environment. We saw our grandchild becoming a truly lost child, falling through the cracks in the educational system.

“Our daughter was so upset she considered homeschooling Dylan but then she learned about Trinity School. She enrolled him at Trinity and applied for the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship. In the time since, we have watched him thrive not only academically but socially. His birthday parties are now filled with the happy sound of children’s laughter and excitement and no longer are disappointing events where few if any of the invited children bother to attend. We almost immediately observed a major difference in how he socializes with us and with others. He has learned skills that most children seem to know almost automatically but that he needs to be carefully taught.

“We now have hope that our grandson will not have to go through life as a rejected and dismissed person but as a fully functioning and contributing member of society.”

Sadly, the plaintiffs are unmoved. As Spiropoulos explains, “the lawsuit is driven by the education establishment’s furious need to destroy any initiative, no matter how necessary or successful, that it perceives will cost it funding.”

Unfortunately, as KOCO-TV reports, “this group that’s suing to stop that scholarship fund, they say that they’ve got an unlimited amount of funding for the legal battle — they’re willing to take it all the way to the Supreme Court if that’s what it takes to stop this scholarship from helping out special-needs kids.”

 

BRANDON DUTCHER, an Edmond resident, is senior vice president at the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs. His columns have appeared in Investor’s Business Daily, the Tulsa World, Forbes.com, and in 200 newspapers throughout Oklahoma and the U.S.

1
Text Only
Opinion
  • St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Why poverty across the world matters to Americans

    A child starving in South Sudan should matter to Americans. That was the message delivered last week by Nancy Lindborg, whose job at the U.S. Agency for International Development is to lead a federal bureau spreading democracy and humanitarian assistance across the world.
    That world has reached a critical danger zone, with three high-level crises combining military conflict with humanitarian catastrophes affecting millions of innocents in Syria, the South Sudan and the Central African Republic.
    But back to that child.

    April 18, 2014

  • Government leadership complicit in overfilling prisons

    One of the thorniest problems facing any society is the question of what to do with transgressors. Obviously, the more complicated a culture becomes, the more factors come into play in trying to figure out what to do with those who choose not to “play by the rules.”

    April 18, 2014

  • My best days are ones normal people take for granted

    It is a weekend for working around the house. My fiancee, Erin, and I have the baby’s room to paint and some IKEA furniture to assemble. I roll out of bed early — 10:30 — and get into my wheelchair. Erin is already making coffee in the kitchen.
    “I started the first wall,” she says. “I love that gray.” Erin never bugs me about sleeping late. For a few months after I was injured in the Boston Marathon bombings, I often slept 15 hours a day. The doctors said my body needed to heal. It must still be healing because I hardly ever see 8 a.m. anymore.

    April 18, 2014

  • Instead of mothballing Navy ships, give them to our allies

    A bitter debate has raged in the Pentagon for several months about the wisdom of taking the nuclear aircraft carrier George Washington out of service to save money. The Washington, at 24 years old a relatively young vessel, is due for a costly refit, a routine procedure that all of the 11 large carriers in service undergo regularly.

    April 18, 2014

  • The pessimist’s guide to grizzly bears and Earth Day

    This coming Friday, to “celebrate Earth Day,” the Walt Disney Co. will release one of those cutesy, fun-for-all-ages, nature documentaries. “Bears” is about grizzly bears.
    The trailer says, “From DisneyNature comes a story that all parents share. About the love, the joy, the struggle and the strength it takes to raise a family.”
    Talk about your misguided “Hollywood values.” I previously have acknowledged a morbid, unreasonable fear of grizzly bears, stemming from a youth misspent reading grisly grizzly-attack articles in Readers Digest. This fear is only morbid and unreasonable because I live about 1,500 miles from the nearest wild grizzly bear. Still. ...

    April 16, 2014

  • Digging out of the CIA-Senate quagmire

    Last week, the Senate Intelligence Committee, led by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., voted to declassify parts of its report on the CIA’s rendition, detention and interrogation program. The White House, the CIA and the Senate still have to negotiate which portions of the report will be redacted before it is made public. But this is an important step in resolving the ugly dispute that has erupted between the intelligence committee and the intelligence agency.
    The dispute presents two very serious questions. Was the program consistent with American values and did it produce valuable intelligence? And is effective congressional oversight of secret activities possible in our democracy?

    April 15, 2014

  • Los Angeles Times: Congress extend jobless benefits again

    How’s this for irony: Having allowed federal unemployment benefits to run out in December, some lawmakers are balking at a bill to renew them retroactively because it might be hard to figure out who should receive them. Congress made this task far harder than it should have been, but the technical challenges aren’t insurmountable. Lawmakers should restore the benefits now and leave them in place until the unemployment rate reaches a more reasonable level.

    April 14, 2014

  • Many nations invested in Israel

    Former Israeli Ambassador to the United States Yoram Ettinger recently spoke to a gathering at the Chabad Center for Jewish Life and Learning in Oklahoma City. The event began with a presentation by Rabbi Ovadia Goldman, who told the attendee that the  upcoming Jewish holiday of Passover was an occasion for them to embrace the children of God, which is all of humanity.

    April 14, 2014

  • Coming soon: More ways to get to know your doctor

    Last week, the federal government released a massive database capable of providing patients with much more information about their doctors.
    The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the government agency that runs Medicare, is posting on its website detailed information about how many visits and procedures individual health professionals billed the program for in 2012, and how much they were paid.
    This new trove of data, which covers 880,000 health professionals, adds to a growing body of information available to patients who don’t want to leave choosing a doctor to chance. But to put that information to good use, consumers need to be aware of what is available, what’s missing and how to interpret it.

    April 14, 2014

  • HEY HINK: Hateful bullies attempt to muffle free speech

    Hopefully we agree it should be a fundamental right to voice criticism of any religion you wish. And you should have the right to sing the praises of any religion you choose. If criticism of religion is unjust, feel free to make your best argument to prove it. If criticism is just, don’t be afraid to acknowledge and embrace it. If songs of praise are merited, feel free to join in. If not, feel free to ignore them. But no American should participate in curbing free speech just because expression of religious views makes someone uncomfortable.

    April 11, 2014

Poll

Do you agree with a state budget proposal that takes some funds away from road and bridge projects to ramp up education funding by $29.85 million per year until schools are receiving $600 million more a year than they are now? In years in which 1 percent revenue growth does not occur in the general fund, the transfer would not take place.

Agree
Disagree
Undecided
     View Results