Palin Gives Policy Speech on Special Needs Funding

Gov. Sarah Palin gave a speech this morning in Pittsburgh outlining her commitment to special needs children, pledging to make special needs children one of her "missions" as vice-president.

In an unusual moment, Palin drew a distinction between the generous support her own family has had and the realities of many Americans facing similar situations, recognizing that smart public policy could help bridge the gap: "[My sister] Heather and I have been blessed with a large, strong family network.
Our family helps make sure that Trig and Karcher have what they need.
But not everyone is lucky enough to have that strong network of
support. And the experiences of those millions of Americans point the
way to better policy in the care of children with special needs."

And Palin did mention some policy specifics: giving parents of special needs children a choice of public
or private schools, fully funding the Individuals with Disabilities
Education Act, "strengthen[ing]" NIH to search for a cure to some

On this site, we’ve said that people with disabilities and their families deserve more than just a campaign promise to special needs children and their families. Pamela Merritt called for fully funding IDEA and for making government funds for institutional care available for home-based care. At the time, only the Obama-Biden ticket supported either of those initiatives. Now McCain and Palin have joined them on the IDEA Act (Palin didn’t mention the Community Choice Act).

Palin also drew attention to her record of increasing funding for special needs children while she was governor of Alaska: "…as governor, I’ve succeeded in securing additional funding and
assistance for students with special needs. By 2011, I will have
tripled the funding available to these students," she said.

Palin often casts herself as a protector of children, never more so than in her Republican National Convention speech. But Lindsay Beyerstein found that when Palin had an opportunity to extend Denali KidCare, Alaska’s children’s health insurance program, to 1200 children and 530 pregnant women, she neglected to do so. And with her running mate pledging to freeze spending on everything but the military and veterans, where will the money to fully fund IDEA come from?  Will Americans gamble on a Palin vice-presidency to figure out whether she’ll deliver for special needs children as she has promised?

On TAPPED, Mark Schmitt has some ideas as to why, under the next administration, though everyone’s in favor of fully funding IDEA, people with disabilities may still be waiting: 

Few are opposed on the merits to full funding of IDEA. The obstacle
has always been the budget, and the fact that such domestic spending is
crowded out by tax cuts, defense spending and then concern about the
deficit. Special needs children may be a “priority,” but they have
fallen behind these others.

And in the McCain-Palin agenda, they still do. McCain has proposed a
“spending freeze,” with exceptions for entitlements, defense and
veterans programs. That leaves the category known as domestic
discretionary spending, which includes programs like IDEA. In the
current budget, domestic discretionary spending totals $392 billion. So
fully funding IDEA, while implementing a spending freeze on that
category would require cutting every other domestic program by an
average of 6.4 percent. That would include Pell Grants, the Low-Income
Home Energy Assistance Program, WIC, clean-energy research, Section 8
housing — dozens and dozens of programs. I hope someone today will ask
Governor Palin whether she’s proposing to cut all those programs, and
why…Yes, governor, it is all about money, and when your priorities are tax
cuts, war and freezing spending, special needs children are not going
to be a priority.

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  • invalid-0

    I’ve now heard and read her speech. Great, we’re going to freeze spending, but fully fund IDEA. What happens to other programs in the Domestic Discretionary Budget for that to happen? Pell Grants, the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, WIC, clean-energy research, Section 8 housing — dozens and dozens of programs will need to be cut by an average of 6.4%. Yeah.

    While she hooked the ticket up to the idea of funding IDEA, there was no strong commitment to it, nor plan proposed for implementing it.

    She completely ignored the Community Choice Act (CCA) which would make $$ that is normally spent on institutionalization available for home-based care.

    She talked about ‘choices’ in education (private vs public), but made no mention of any guidelines that would prevent schools from discriminating against our children based on test scores.

    As she rightly said “For many parents of children with disabilities, the most valuable thing of all is information.” What she totally glossed over, though, is that the information comes through sources her ticket is NOT endorsing: guaranteed medical coverage for all children. Where does most of our early information about our children and their ‘condition’ come from? Our doctors. Doctors our children won’t see without insurance. Therapists that our children won’t see without coverage. Visiting nurses that will no longer ‘visit’ us because our child isn’t able to get insurance (‘pre-existing’ and ‘congenital’ often are treated the same by insurance companies).

    First we have to GET information — from healthcare providers – and we need insurance for that!! Then, we need to be able to access services – and we need insurance for that!! Am I the only one seeing the disconnect here?

    I think the commitment to education is great, really, but what about EI therapies? What about AFTER school is over with? It’s all well and good to say “We’ll give you a ton of educational choices.” but it does me no good if I can’t afford medical coverage for a child who may not SURVIVE until school age without OHS; nor does it benefit me, as the parent of a 30 yo who needs day-to-day assistance to know that she ‘could have gone to private school.’

    Frankly, this speech was a disappointment on many levels. Not the least of which was the underlying assumption that education was the main concern of parents of children w/ special needs. We want them educated, yes – but HEALTHY children learn better than UNhealthy children. It has to be from the bottom up – healthy children learn better. You can’t go ‘top-down’ — you can’t ‘teach a child healthy.’

    So far, the M/P ticket has not impressed me on this issue.

  • invalid-0

    I continued to be appalled by what passes as knowledge and fact from Governor Palin. Her child is 6 months old…she has no idea what the parents of special needs go through. She may understand the moment that you learn you child will need special care – but until she has had to try to connect with the child and teach him to walk and talk and care for herself she has no right pretending to understand that she has walked the path of so many brave parents.

    The idea that education is somehow the first need of these children is ridiculous. Before you can educate the child you must ensure that have access to proper healthcare and the necessary therapy that will allow them to thrive. Choice of private or religious school does nothing for the child whose parent’s can’t afford the therapies that will improve her speech and motor skills.

    I applaud that she wants to do something for children with different needs – but she should first talk to some parents and support groups to understand what would be useful and not try to simply gain a sympathy vote by giving an empty speech.

  • invalid-0

    It seemed like this fifteen minute speech on “special needs children” was overly long. The content was rather thin, it seemed more emotional and common sensical; stating the obvious for the most part. Hardly any specifics to the policies they would enact.

    More like a First Lady speech than a VP speech.

  • invalid-0

    My brother is mentally handicapped. In the late sixties my mother was part of a group that sued the state of North Carolina for mentally handicapped children to attend school. The class did not have a certified teacher until several years later.

    Palin’s speech was so right on target. Even if she did not mention every resource available she knew it was important for the families to know what their child’s disabilities were as soon as possible and what avenues they can take for a better life for their child. If the families do not know about the programs they can not use them.

    I was looking for the speech so my mother could here it. When I googled Palin the drop down came up listing Palin’s glasses, Palin’s daughter Palin’s clothes.