THIS is what poverty sometimes looks like in America: parents here in Appalachian hill country pulling their children out of literacy classes. Moms and dads fear that if kids learn to read, they are less likely to qualify for a monthly check for having an intellectual disability.
Many people in hillside mobile homes here are poor and desperate, and a$698 monthly check per child from the Supplemental Security Income program goes a long way — and those checks continue until the child turns 18.
“The kids get taken out of the program because the parents are going to lose the check,” said Billie Oaks, who runs a literacy program here in Breathitt County, a poor part of Kentucky. “It’s heartbreaking.”This does not surprise me. When we lived in the Bay Area, my wife was asked to help tutor a sixth grader in basic reading skills. The kid wanted to go hunting with Dad, and needed to be able to read well enough to pass Hunter Safety. After a few weeks, my wife was impressed at how quickly this kid had moved from first-grade reading level to fourth-grade reading level -- and he did not seem to have a learning disability. So my wife contacted his teacher to find out why this kid was in a special education program. The teacher would not return her calls.
Finally, a friend who taught in a nearby district told us the dirty little secret: school districts had no interest in reclassifying kids who had been mistakenly classified as "special education": the district received extra funding for every kid in special education, and special ed teachers were paid more.
It does not surprise me too much when school districts look out for the interests of the budget, not the kids. It horrifies me when parents condemn their children to lives of ignorance and dependency so that they can get that disability check.