Education

The truth about IDEA – Who is Deborah Blair Porter?

There is a shocking mole in the world of journalism.

Deborah Blair Porter appears to have an impressive resume, writing for Edweek, The Los Angeles Times and The Daily Breeze. She might have even had a local council position in the South Bay of Los Angeles at some point. Ms. Porter has a “secret” that creates a journalistic bias in the most egregious way. Keep reading for more.

Ms. Porter clearly supports the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA), this is not unusual. I have never heard of anyone who has ever been against it. I recently read an article authored by Ms. Porter that was published in Edweek. The content and comments in her article were disingenuous and embarrassing at least. Many sarcastic comments precede her accusation of letter writing campaigns en masse by the PTA to their legislatures to oppose IDEA. She claims that the PTAs are, “blaming special education students and their parents” for the budget crisis in California.

Before I comment on the balance of Ms. Porter’s article, I will address her letter writing campaign statement. I searched the California PTA’s website where I reviewed all information about special education. I found nothing about letter writing campaigns for special education. What I did find was an informational packet instructing parents how to identify learning disabilities to discover if they’re student is eligible for IDEA benefits. There are two bills that the PTA supports regarding IDEA, AB661 Toralkson and AB826 Buchanan. These bills attempt to apportion more state money to IDEA.

Apart from the state PTA, I did find a proposed letter writing campaign from Mission Viejo asking its membership to bring to the attention of the legislature that their school district had spent an additional $13.7 in mandated IDEA services. The letter to the membership was authored by Caroline Paltin, Ph.D., Special Education Chair for the Special Education Committee. Hardly an attack on IDEA; Special Education Chair, Dr. Paltin, clearly is trying to mitigate the damage of financial requirements by asking the federal government to properly fund the IDEA programs, instead of having the funding come from the local school districts. http://www.svpta.org/newsletters/march08.pdf

Another local PTA, in a school district in Santa Barbara, stated that the PTA strongly supports increasing federal funding for IDEA. I am not sure how that is a letter writing campaign, but perhaps it should be.

Is it possible that Ms. Porter does not understand that a PTA asking for federal funding for IDEA services does not equate to “blaming special education students and their parents”?

She goes on to negatively point out that some people “believe the responsibility for educating [special education] lies elsewhere.” That statement is accurate, but I am not sure why she puts a negative spin on it, well – maybe I know why. More on that later. The reason why people believe that the responsibility lies elsewhere is because … the responsibility lies elsewhere in the case of IDEA. IDEA, a federal act has defined and imposed services and mandates on the states for special education.

IDEA again are mandates and not suggestions. However, the federal government only funds about 19% of the cost of IDEA services and other costs, the state (SELPA) kicks in another 28% leaving school districts to use its own unrestricted funds to cover the balance of the costs, this fund is called an encroachment fund.

The aforementioned school district in Mission Viejo had an encroachment fund for IDEA in the sum of $13.7 million, and that’s about average. That encroachment fund comes straight from school districts’ budgets and from other school education programs, library and PE, including the lay off of teachers which will cause larger class sizes in 2009-10. I am not sure why Ms. Porter assesses any of the PTA positions as, “a new level of blame [sec] being directed squarely at parents of kids with special needs.”

Ms. Porter further attempts to make the claim that: “According to the U.S. Department of [sec] Education is primarily a State and local responsibility in the United States.”

Good grief. This was her best analysis of why the states should be paying the bill for IDEA? First of all, the parents who are concerned about the funding are not mad at the state for not funding the program, it’s about the inequity of the school districts having to pay over 50% of the services from their own local budgets. In any event, her explanation about states and education is unimpressive and unreliable in her context. States having responsibility to educate its students is attributed to the 10th Amendment of the Constitution (Bill of Rights) establishing that because education is not mentioned in the Constitution, therefore the responsibility belongs to the states to decide education priorities.

Although she failed to properly analyze the states’ rights on education, or she willfully slanted the truth, she provided the perfect example to illustrate why the federal government should not be making mandates and acts that require outside funding from states and school districts. As prescribed by a case in 1992, the Supreme Court made a ruling on a case alleging a violation of the 10th Amendment, New York v. The United States of America (1992), 505 U.S. 14. The Supreme Court, in a 6–3 decision, found that federally mandated programs violated the states rights under the 10th Amendment. In her decision, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor found that the federal government can encourage but cannot mandate conditions for a federal Act and that the federal government cannot directly compel states to enforce federal regulations by forcing the funding.

The federal government has no business mandating federal acts on the states. That’s the point. Yes, the states need to balance their own budgets and make cuts according to their revenues. Yet the federal government mandates IDEA programs without consideration of the hardship that the mandates cause and the required cuts elsewhere. The state should be able to educate all of the students including those with disabilities.

Ms. Porter is correct that it’s the state’s right, but then why defend IDEA mandates handed down from the federal government? You cannot have it both ways, Ms. Porter. Ms. Porter woefully failed to appropriately analyse any of her legal findings. This is odd for a reporter to do. Why did she do this?

It becomes apparent when you find that Ms. Porter sued the Manhattan Beach Unified School District for IDEA inadequacies and found herself a millionaire with a nearly $8 million settlement that came directly from the Manhattan Beach school district budget. The case is entitled, Porter v. Board of Trustees, Manhattan Beach Unified School District 307 F3d. 1064. Indeed, incorporated in the IDEA statutes, there is an affirmative proviso for assumed conflicts followed by legal entitlements for those who are not satisfied with the school’s adherence. Ms. Porter, in her lawsuit, claimed time and again that the special education services for her son were not provided to her satisfaction. Though her child has delayed learning and a mild spectrum of autism, she insisted on a one-on-one aid and other benefits for which her child was not qualified to receive. According to the Manhattan Beach special education department, the school district offered other remedies as prescribed for his condition, however, Manhattan Beach was unable to satisfy Ms. Porter’s demands for additional IEPs, programs and services. I guess she received a settlement because she exhausted everyone, driving up legal fees for the district – when she should have been exhausting her other remedies, in my opinion.

In an article that I wrote back on May 13, I unwittingly profiled the case of Porter, having had no inkling of who Porter was, I wrote: “Case in point, Porter v. Board of Trustees of Manhattan Beach Unified School District et al., 307 F. 3d 1064 (9th Cir. 2002), 537 U.S. 1194, 123 S. Ct. 1303, 154 L. Ed. 2nd 1029 (2003). In the case of Porter, the parents of a student, who had been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, charged that Manhattan Beach Unified School District failed to provide their child with a “free appropriate public education.” This lawsuit resulted in the school district paying over $6.7M to the family of the student. In addition, as part of the settlement, control of the student’s education was transferred to a Special Master, Ivor Weiner, Ph.D., resulting in the cost of just under $1.1M to pay for the education of the student at the direction of the Special Master.”

After I published this article, I began receiving sarcastic and nasty comments from someone defending the Porter v. Manhattan Beach case, 70 comments in 10 days. I am informed and believe that these comments came from Ms. Porter who was anonymously trying to discredit me on my own site and other sites.

Ms. Porter even embarrassingly uses her own case in her Ednews article to attempt to make a point about IDEA and defend this litigation, yet never tells her readers that she is the plaintiff in the case. I really don’t know what to say beyond that because it’s such a blow to the world of journalism and the sanctity of the truth. Why she keeps this a “secret” is beyond the stretch of my imagination. I think Edweek should give me a shot at her job, at least I would do it with honor, dignity and accuracy.

http://ednews.org/articles/whats-the-big-idea.html