A lot changed since the February 8 post. By the middle of the week, I nearly gave up tracking progress of the Economic Stimulus Package. Through the course of each day last week, we'd receive different reports from Washington, some people reporting that money for Independent Living, Education, and Vocational Rehabilitation had been cut, then a report two hours later that said the money was secure. It's not that any of the reports were erroneous; the situation was just changing dramatically on a daily, sometimes hourly basis. On Thursday, a troubling report came in that said money for IDEA was secure, but that the Chicago School District would have leverage to cut its special education budget up to the amount of local IDEA funding. In other words, if Chicago Public Schools received $10 million federal, then it could have cut $10 from the special education budget. In my opinion, this would defeat the purpose of the stimulus. But by Friday afternoon, somehow, a frantic, confusing, busy week and stimulus drama concluded on a positive note. News of a package agreed upon by both the House and the Senate included from $87 million to $130 million for Independent Living, $550 million for Vocational Rehabilitation and $15 billion for IDEA.
Despite all the work done by the disability community, the good news was quite startling, if not shocking. It's almost as if I was expecting the disability measures to be sacrificed, which explains the February 8 entry. When news filtered through out the office, and people actually started to believe the stimulus had reached a happy conclusion, a few organizers huddled around my desk, reflecting on what had happened. We speculated who it might have been from the House or the Senate who championed disability when it appeared to be against the ropes. While we can only speculate, we can also ask, "could times be changing for the better?"