What is a PAC? Well of course a pack of wolves is what I think of but that is not what a PAC is according to the State of Michigan standards in regards to special education.
A PAC ~ Parent Advisory Committee is a federally mandated parent organization that is supposed to work directly with the school district that they are in to be a resource to parents. Each intermediate school district in the state of Michigan is mandated to appoint a Parent Advisory Committee composed of representative from each of its constituent districts. Now, I’ve heard that this applies to every intermediate school district in the country but I have not researched that yet so I’m not sure if every state has a Parent Advisory Committee (PAC) or Regional Educational Service Agency (RESA), I’m sure they do, not just under those names.
Now in the state of Michigan these PACs are supposed to meet on a regular basis to offer guidance, resources and support to fellow parents, the school district in turn is to support the PAC. Unfortunately not every district supports their local PAC as they often see them as an hindrance, an expense or just a plain old pain in the a**.
PAC’s could truly change the face of special education in Michigan if we all banded together. If we became one collective voice then no district anywhere would be able to stop us. Now, I’m not talking about neck popping and threatening I’m talking about coming together as a group of concerned parents.
For some reason across this great country having a special needs child is often chalked up to bad parenting or something the parent did (I know old news right, thought that changed with the women’s movement). So often parents spend a lot of time either trying to make their child “normal” so society can accept them or they spend a lot of time doing nothing because of shame, guilt, lack of resources or what ever the case may be. No one tells a parent that they should be PROUD of their child with different abilities. No one tells a parent that they have support, if they do 9 times out of 10 they don’t say where the support is. Most of the times when a parent joins a support group they still feel alone because so many others are just concerned about their current issue, not saying that is right or wrong but that’s just what is.
I would love to see us as parents of differently abled children come together as one voice as it would truly make the PAC seem like a pack, as it would make parents feel connected, it would make us feel like we have a voice somewhere.
My challenge to you is to connect in some way shape or form to another parent of a different learner, go to your next local PAC meeting, listen and see what is going on. Don’t automatically dismiss another parents problems as unimportant, I have been guilty of that because I was on my own agenda and missed out on so much. Remember that you are connected to that other parent, it’s a brotherhood of sorts, often in speaking with someone you have the same war wounds even if it’s from a different war. Stop for a moment and realize that this system of Special Education is a great money maker for all school districts. Do not allow them to treat us as typical when we are extraordinary. Be a voice so that funds are used as required by Federal Law on the education of our children, don’t let the words budget cuts scare you, special education is an entirely different pot of money. Learn where that money comes from and how much your district and school gets, it will be important to you trust me.
If you don’t think your PAC is doing what you think they should be doing follow these steps:
- Become involved to see the process at work, don’t become involved if you think you’re going to change everything overnight and you’re going to run it all. That causes division and we don’t need more of that.
- Go to the following websites, print out the information that you need and even some you don’t grab a highlighter a cup of coffee and get to reading:
- Wright’s Law
- Wayne RESA
- State of Michigan Special Eduation Law
- Michigan Administrative Rules for Special Education
Start there if you haven’t started at all, make special education a conversation starter not the elephant in the closet. Until you do you will never receive what you’re supposed to receive, you will always be afraid to speak up or take your kids to community events. Celebrate your child and what they can do, they sooner you do the sooner they’ll be able to do more.
Love and Blessings