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Newest Palin Smear: She Cut Special Needs Budget

11:21 AM, Sep 4, 2008 • By BRIAN FAUGHNAN
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I just watched CNN's Soledad O'Brien sandbag former White House Communications Director Nicole Wallace by asking her how Sarah Palin can claim to be a defender of special needs children when she cut the budget for that Alaska office by 62 percent. Wallace wasn't familiar with the charge -- which isn't surprising, since it's only being made on DailyKos and another liberal site. (Tip for Ms. O'Brien: DailyKos is not a reliable news site.)

This charge is based on looking at the budget for Alaska's Special Education Service Agency for 2007-2009. In fact, the December 2006 budget document that they cite would have been prepared by the outgoing administration -- that of Republican Frank Murkowski, whom Palin defeated.

What's gone unmentioned is that the Palin signed into law a dramatic reform of the state's education financing system that equalizes aid to rural and urban districts, while significantly increasing funding for special needs students. From the publication Education Week:

Gov. Sarah Palin and state lawmakers have gone ahead with an overhaul of Alaska's school funding system that supporters predict will provide much-needed financial help to rural schools and those serving students with disabilities.

The plan, enacted in the recently concluded session of the legislature, is based on recommendations issued by a legislative task force last year. It will phase in a greater flow of money to districts outside of Anchorage, Alaska's largest city, over the next five years.

Advocates for rural and remote schools have lobbied for years for more funding, in particular noting the higher fuel, transportation, and other costs associated with providing education in communities scattered across the vast state.

A second part of the measure raises spending for students with special needs to $73,840 in fiscal 2011, from the current $26,900 per student in fiscal 2008, according to the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development (emphasis added).

So the Netroots and CNN allege that Palin cut special needs funding by 62 percent, by crediting her with the budget proposed by a political opponent. And the truth is that rather than a 62 percent cut, she's actually increasing special needs funding by 175 percent.

It's no wonder a majority of Americans think the media is trying to hurt Palin.