Dear Governor Brown,
Recently, I read a an article in Disability Scoop discussing a 50-state analysis from United Cerebral Palsy that compared services to the disabled offered across the country, giving preference to states where more individuals are served in the community as opposed to institutions.
California ranked as one of the highest states, coming in at number five. This should have made me happy, considering I'm an autism advocate known for my expertise on transition to adulthood, and I have a son who is now at that magical age of 22 where he is now eligible for adult services.
However, the looming budget cuts remind me of the old Prop 13 days. You were opposed to the passage of Proposition 13, the People's Initiative to Limit Property Taxation, when you were governor back then. This amendment of the Constitution of California enacted during 1978 cut property taxes, and this decrease in property taxes had a negative effect on public education.
California public schools, which during the 1960s had been ranked nationally as among the best, have decreased to 48th in many surveys of student achievement. Until 1985, California's spending per pupil was the same as the national average, when it began decreasing.
Years ago, after the passage of the Lanterman Act, which gave civil rights to individuals with developmental disabilities in California, I helped prepare young men and women from de-institutionalization so they could live in their own community. Now, my son is 22 and I fear that with the looming budget cuts, the civil rights of many like him will be destroyed, and that institutionalization will once again be the norm for people like him.
Money may not buy happiness, but it does help in providing people the tools to have an education and become a productive member of society, as well as the right to live fully included in the community.
Can you imagine even trying to cut the hard earned civil rights of the African-Americans, or women -- two groups who had to fight to be given the same rights as any other (read white male) American? Yet, the state of California is getting ready to cut the civil rights of the disabled and no one seems to notice. The parents of the disabled are so tired caring for their dependent adults and trying to make money they don't have the time to march or protest in full force.
My son, Jeremy, would be glad to visit you in Sacramento if you need to put a face on the possibilities of the disabled when given a chance, and when families are given the supports needed. You can see how far he has come thanks to his hard work, IDEA, and the hard-working public educators. Now, we are struggling to plan his future as budget cuts loom. He wants to become a contributing member of society, but without some help, he won't be able to do so. What will happen to him, and those like him?
Governor Brown, please think carefully about the civil rights of those with disabilities when you reflect on the budget cuts. They need and deserve our support.
Follow Chantal Sicile-Kira on Twitter: www.twitter.com/sicilekira