Living in Texas with her husband and two children, Mandi Waite was losing hope.
“I know before I was a special needs mom, I was pretty ignorant to what went on around me and just thought there weren’t very many people. That's just not true,” Waite said.
Waite’s sons are diagnosed with autism and hydrocephalus, a condition that causes excessive accumulation of fluid in the brain.
Since moving to Texas (her husband’s home state), she was having trouble finding proper special education services for her children.
“We tried to find programs for them, we were trying to find help for them in school, and they kept cutting the budget,” she said.
While wondering what she could do to help her kids, Waite thought about her own experiences as a kid… and a potential solution arose.
“I grew up in the Mead School District, so I knew first hand the amazing resources the Mead School District is known for. I have friends with special needs, who went through the Mead School District and it was a great experience,” she said.
But moving from the Lone Star State to the Pacific Northwest would be a big decision… one that would take a lot of stress, time, and money. So, Waite and her husband tried their best to make it work.
“When you have all these things piling up, piling up, and I was trying to get resources for years… I couldn’t,” Waite said.
Waite’s had waited long enough. In an effort to provide better special education services for their children, Waite and her husband packed up their home and moved to Mead.
“I’ve seen firsthand how moving here and having all the resources has impacted our kids for the better. They have come so, so, so far,” Waite said.
The Mead School District, along with other districts across the state of Washington, is facing a major budget deficit heading into next year.
The statewide shortfalls are a result of the McCleary Decision, a Supreme Court case that eventually led to the state legislature approving more than a billion dollars in additional funding for schools statewide.
However, the ruling also resulted in limited levy rates to $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed value.
“If no changes are made, the ZIP code of students will end up determining the quality of their education. That is just plain wrong and was never the intent of the McCleary case,” Jim Kowalkowski, superintendent of Davenport School District, wrote in an op-ed last summer in the Spokesman-Review.
But no matter what ZIP code one lives in Spokane County, it doesn’t matter: Spokane Public Schools, West Valley School District, and Freeman School District all face budget shortfalls for the next school year. Those districts, and many more across the Inland Northwest, anticipate laying off staff (including teachers) and reducing funding towards services and programs district wide.
Mead School District is no exception.
On Wednesday night, the district announced its plan to address an anticipated $12 million shortfall. It includes major cuts in almost every facet of the district, including special education services (at least $537,000).
“With all these budget cuts, it’s getting scary,” Waite said.
“I can tell you from personal experience that it will have an effect on families… it had an effect on ours,” she said.