As a noted academic who has developed a career in education, Carl Militello has always maintained a strong focus on implementing instructional programs that can better serve every student. Such concentration on student needs and concern for improved learning have allowed Militello to contribute both as a counselor and a superintendent. He has even helped contribute to the field of special education, one that he believes is very important within the framework of American academics. However, while many see special education as an area of instruction that applies to only a limited number of students, Militello explains that the field impacts all students.
Carl Militello explains, “Every child has a right to education in America and the opportunity to improve themselves with learning. As such, it is critical that all school systems have thorough special education systems in place that can help afford students with disabilities—mental or physical—attain an opportunity to learn. Improving special education services is essential not only to those who face these setbacks, but it is also important to all students, as it promotes an academic environment founded in equality.”
While special education has served many students in recent years, Carl Militello notes that many may be surprised to learn that American institutions were not always so accommodating. In order to illustrate the previous disparity in education, Militello points to a recent article from The Wall Street Journal.
The article observes, “Before 1975, more than a million students with disabilities were excluded from schools and some 3.5 million did not receive appropriate services. That year, Congress passed the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, now called the Individuals With Disabilities Act of 1990. Students identified as disabled have since been guaranteed access to what the law calls a ‘free appropriate public education,’ and their parents have the right to participate in (and dispute) the school’s development of an annual ‘individualized education program’ for their child.”
Carl Militello responds, “The amount of progress that has come from this legislation is inspiring. The work of advocates, politicians, academics and administrators has allowed many children facing a wide range of learning difficulties to discover an opportunity to learn and grown in the same system that matriculates all students. However, there is a great deal of progress that still needs to be made in special education—as well as education in general.” As far as what areas could be improved, Militello notes that special education is still not as accessible to students as many may think.
Specifically, The Wall Street Journal reports, “Today, six million students with disabilities (about 14 percent of all students) have the right to a free appropriate public education and an individualized education program. Between 70 percent and 80 percent of these students have mild or moderate disabilities, including learning disabilities, speech or language impairments, social and emotional disabilities, and other conditions, such as ADHD. Only 20 percent to 30 percent have more severe disabilities, such as cognitive impairments, [multi-handicapping] conditions, deafness or blindness.”
In addition, the article notes that special education improvement is often hindered by costs that are already considered high. The article suggests, “Special education is expensive. Estimates of its cost nationwide range between $80 billion and $110 billion per year, and the spending continues to rise faster than regular-education spending. The burden falls mostly on state and local governments. Federal law drives special education, but the federal contribution is less than 20 percent.”
“The cost of special education programs mirrors the concerns that many US citizens have about the educational system in America in general—there is not enough money being directed to our schools for comprehensive education that benefits everyone. The progress educators have made is impressive, but 14 percent is still a considerably low amount of students who can benefit from these programs,” Carl Militello comments.
Carl Militello Comments on “Mainstreaming” Trends in Special Education
According to The Wall Street Journal one of the ways that special education has become more accessible to students is the practice of “mainstreaming,” also known as inclusion. The article explains, “Nationwide, about 60 percent of students with disabilities spend at least 80 percent of their instructional time in regular classrooms…The push to place these students in regular classes is called ‘inclusion’ (or sometimes ‘mainstreaming’). The federal government has target indicators in state improvement plans, recording how many students with disabilities are in regular classes.”
For Carl Militello, mainstreaming is a potential solution; however, it may not prove effective when weighing the opinions of all parents. For instance, The Wall Street Journal observes that while many parents do not speak out on the subject, some may argue that inclusion may detract from the overall education the classroom receives. However, Militello explains that this is a weak argument.
“Right now, mainstreaming is a great way to create classrooms that are founded on social equality and provide all students with an opportunity to learn, despite the immense cost concerns that many American school districts face. While some may argue that inclusion is not fair for those without special needs, it is important to not approach education in a segmented fashion. Not every special education student is the same, just as every student is not the same; it is not necessarily practical to single students out for everything that makes them different. The solution to improving overall education is to not disregard inclusion efforts, but to improve spending and instructional methods from the top-down,” Carl Militello concludes.
Carl Militello has been a school superintendent in Buffalo, New York, for 15 years. He holds master’s degrees in various departments of education, special education, and counseling. He is a strong advocate for special education services and constantly works to improve conditions in that sector. He is a volunteer with the Western New York Leadership Group, the Wellsville Lions Club, and the Dunkirk Chamber of Commerce. Currently, he is utilizing his master’s degree in alcohol and substance abuse to help him volunteer at Buffalo General Hospital. A fan of music, Militello supports and acts as a member of the Buffalo Philharmonic. In addition to his professional endeavors, Militello is an avid gardener who specializes in English-style gardening.