Belmont family profiled in Globe story on cuts to social services

We’ve been focusing a lot on what impact cuts in Local Aid may have on our schools — an important question, to be sure. But the Globe had a heartwrenching story on the front page today about how the State’s ongoing budget crisis may affect families who rely on state funds for help providing for children with severe disabilities, with a family from our own community figuring prominently in the story. Bella English’s excellent story about the Burke family and their struggle to raise three lovely daughters who were born with Sanfilippo syndrome, a very rare and fatal degenerative brain disease, put a very human face on the otherwise sterile and bureaucratic machinations on Beacon Hill, where talk of  “reductions in services” and “necessary cuts” often mask a brutal reality.  Without help from the State, which helps pay for  the caseworkers and educators who help shoulder the load of caring for three profoundly disabled children, the lives of families like the Burkes, already hard, will get much harder. 

I’ve already heard from constitutents that the Burke case should make us all mindful of the good and important work that special education funding pays for. I agree, and think its especially important to keep it in mind in a budget environment in which parents of regular education students look at SPED funding (which is set to increase in Belmont and cannot be curtailed, by law) enviously. 

But this story touches on a bigger issue: the degree to which lawmakers on Beacon Hill are willing to balance the budget on the backs of those who can least afford it: needy families, the infirm and school children. Hey, I like a glass of wine or a beer with dinner as much as the next guy, but given the choice between paying an extra dollar or two in liquor taxes for my Sam Adams or Chianti and seeing neighbors like the Burkes driven into financial ruin, or just despondency for lack of resources, I don’t think the choice is too tough, do you?  The same could be said for an income tax on top earners or a carbon tax on gas — all options on the table in the current budget debate, but steps that are meeting with a lot of resistance.