Monday, September 14, 2009

California is not the heartland

We have had such amazing experiences since moving out of California. The term "heartland" for the midwest always struck me as a cliche (being from liberal, progressive California). But I am beginning to get it. 

California is an incredibly wealthy state. South Dakota is less so. Californians flaunt their wealth. South Dakotans use it. I have yet to see an Escalade here. But the schools all have libraries. And librarians. Most families live in homes that are under 2000 square feet in our new home town. But the schools have computer labs. And computer teachers. 

Attending an IEP team meeting in California, the team made a recommendation for an assistive technology device, and our program specialist squirmed. She claimed she could not recommend the device because she did not have the authority to authorize to make the purchase. (Even with attorneys present she could not bring herself to comply with the law without reservation). 

At an IEP team meeting here, the special education director asked questions like, "Do we need to purchase a device for her?" and "What training do we as a team need to get ready for her?Should we hire a consultant to train us or will the state department of education be able to provide training through their assistive technology group?" (FYI, California's state DOE does not have an AT group).

In California, the smallest of obstacles for providers becomes a mountain too tall to scale, too big to go around. Even though there is a staggering amount of money flowing through the economy there (Gary Eberhardt said they spend 68 million dollars on 4000 special education students  per year) they can't seem to make that money work. There are fewer than half that number of people in this entire town. Yet here they manage to fund their schools, keep libraries, computers, art, music, AND bus their special education students to town each week for adaptive aquatics. No one in the school district is afraid to comply with IDEA or ADA because compliance is too expensive.

Of course, my in laws drive a late model domestic mini-van (which, horrors, has a dent in the fender), cut their own lawn (1/4 of an acre) and take most of their meals at home, rather than ordering or going out. 

I wonder where all the money comes from?