Just Do It

Recently the conversation in my office was about a student in crisis and the additional supports that the youth needs to get through this challenging period. It is not the first time that we have tailored an individualized program for a child, as a matter of fact, Hillsides and its Education Center are known for making that extra effort and, more often than not, being successful with a very challenging resident. We know the right thing to do, we know how to do it and we have the resolve to do it in spite of limited resources.

These days, whether walking the halls of Congress in Washington or the Legislature in Sacramento, the talk is about public revenue shortfalls and budget strategies; and I must admit the talk is grim. While some economic indicators may point to stability and perhaps growth, government has not seen any growth in revenues; in California, we are still struggling with what some estimate to be a $20 billion deficit!
In the great Californian spirit of ballot initiatives, November’s ballot may be littered with all sorts of initiatives proposed to remedy our fiscal woes. I’m afraid the result may only be to confuse, further restrict scarce public funds and only frustrate a very desperate situation.
In the meantime, how do we find the resources to address the needs of that student in crisis?
Daily instruction at the Hillsides Education Center costs approximately $145 while the reimbursement averages $125. Multiply that gap by 75 students and the calendar of instruction days and you get a sense of the tremendous challenge to maintain a critical service for not just our residents, but many community day students.
Clearly, the solutions lies in utilizing what limited resources we have in the most effective way possible. The task is not easy because as indicated in the recently released findings of the President’s Commission on Excellence in Special Education (http://www2.ed.gov/inits/commissionsboards/whspecialeducation/reports/summ.html), the education system is part of the problem. It is a system that fails to provide early and appropriate interventions for students with learning challenges; it is a system that is more driven by student failure. Failure only exacerbates the situation, traumatizes the student and leads often to very expensive interventions that are, of course, underfunded.
More than anything else at this time we need to break away from the usual strategy of legislating  solutions offered by special interests groups to utilize instead what we know to be most effective, always driven by the needs of those we serve.

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