Palin Gives Policy Speech on Special Needs Funding

Emily Douglas

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.

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).

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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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