Alright – so, every since Pacer told me to take a flying leap and did not help me when I needed an advocate after Bloomington Public Schools suspended my child who has nonverbal autism for having a behavior the school caused. As I have said before, my kid has no idea what suspension is nor can comprehend the behavior he had. Additionally, autism is a behavior disorder and individuals with any disability should not be punished for their disability.
Anyway, after Pacer’s advocate refused to help me, I tried to find out any minority owned or run advocacy agencies. To my surprise there were none funded by any state or federal agency even though there are millions of dollars available to help autism families as well as other families who have children with a disability. To make a long story short and as I have blogged about my experience, I have been trying to find out why and who is getting all or at least most of the advocacy funds. It turns out Pacer has been getting it for years without competition from anyone including even any mainstream agency. I know what the heck?
The advocate in me kicked in and I wanted to know how is this possible, why and what can be done about it. I have some good news on this.
The Minnesota Department of Education’s assistant Commissioner sent me below email which I am happy about because it looks like MDE will finally stop giving all of this money to Pacer without any accountability.
Tom and Robyn shared your questions and concerns with me. Below is more information from Tom on the PACER grants. PACER is currently in year four of a five year grant. The next time we do the statewide parent training grant, we will open it up for a grant competition rather than having it be sole source with PACER. We will also add more explicit language in the Request for Proposal that the grantee will have to work with a minority run agency regarding outreach, communications and training for culturally diverse families.
Below is the information I received from the state education department (MDE) when I asked how does MDE ensure equity and equality towards communities and families of color are being served.
The PACER Parent Training Grant from the State of Minnesota began in 2015. It is a five year grant. The PACER Center Parent Training Grant is in its fifth year. To date, $1,081,170 has been paid through the grant to PACER since the beginning date of the grant in 2015. There was never an MDE decision that PACER is or is not required to partner with community organizations. Below are other grantees but as you can see Pacer clearly takes the bulk of the money.
All 13 of the grants that the Minnesota Department of Education makes from the federal special education funds granted to the State of Minnesota are managed by the Minnesota Department of Education. Federal special education grants to states are provided based on the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004. The 13 grants were awarded to:
- Metro Educational Cooperative Services Unit (two 5-year grants, one 2-year grant, $1,135,700/year)
- PACER Center (5-year grant, $400,000/year)
- Southwest West Central Service Cooperative (5-year grant, $198,000/year)
- Benton Stearns Education District (5-year grant, $198,000/year)
- North St. Paul – Maplewood – Oakdale Public Schools (5-year grant, $20,000/year)
- St. Cloud Public Schools (5-year grant, $20,000/year)
- University of Minnesota (3-year grant, $50,000/year)
- Rosemount – Apple Valley – Eagan Schools (2-year grant, $50,000/year)
- Princeton Public Schools (2-year grant, $50,000/year)
- Northfield Public Schools (2-year grant, $50,000/year)
- Spring Grove Public Schools (2-year grant, $50,000/year)
In this grant, Pacer was also solely awarded $75,000 annually to built capacity. Let’s think about this word “capacity”. I have seen so many minority advocacy agencies who were told “they did not get the grant because they did not have the capacity”. By the same token, the state education department was giving thousands of dollars to Pacer (a Caucasian owned advocacy agency) to build capacity. How do you like them apples?
Ladies and Gentlemen, this is how inequality and disparity is created and our own state education department has been doing it for years.
While, above information from MDE is clearly upsetting, we can now have the opportunity to at least be in the competition. I think this is a good idea and I hope minority advocacy agencies apply. I also hope they first learn more about this funding, its requirements and what the process is so that they are ready when it comes up.
Above words do not reflect any candidate, agency or committee.
Idil – Autism Mom