Describer: [On screen text:] Trevor Turner, Public Policy Director for the Minnesota Council on Disability, interviews Deqa Farah about her reaction to the Governor Walz Budget Engagement Event: Disabilities Communities, on March 25th, 2021.
Deqa, who has a son with multiple disabilities including autism and ADHD, asked the Governor about how his budget will address the needs of students with disabilities who have fallen behind because of the COVID-19 pandemic and distance learning.
Trevor Turner: Hello, everyone. My name is Trevor Turner and I’m the Public Policy Director for the Minnesota Council on Disability. I’m a white male with blonde hair and blue eyes and I’m wearing a black sweater and I use he, him pronouns.
Today, I am here with Deqa Farah, who is a disability advocate in our community. And Deqa, why don’t you give yourself an introduction.
Deqa Farah: Sure. Like Trevor said, my name is Deqa. I am a disability advocate and I’m also the proud parent of autistic kiddo. I am a Somali woman, with brown skin wearing a maroon scarf and wearing a pink shirt. And I use she, her pronouns.
Trevor: Well, thank you Deqa so much for being here.
So, we had a couple of weeks ago, we had a Governor’s engagement event where the Governor and Lieutenant Governor participated at the town hall-style question and answer session. And they answered questions from the community including yourself, and your question had to do with people in school, people with disabilities in school and COVID-19 pandemic with distance learning and your concern was how will people with disabilities be able to recover from the pandemic and all the things that have set us back in school.
So why did you ask that question and why was it important to you?
Deqa: Sure, thanks for having me, Trevor. I asked that question because my kiddo, he’s seven years old and he was – He has autism and he also has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
So, he was doing really well prior to the COVID pandemic but once we had to go distant learning he was really struggling. I mean, we were working really hard before the pandemic. We were at a good place, but then we realized that distance learning wasn’t working for us and he was falling behind.
So, I wanted to know kind of what services and what the Walz administration was going to do to help us and help families like us.
Trevor: Well, thank you so much for participating and I thought that question was a really good question. And the Governor Walz – I will go ahead and read just a small quote from one of his responses.
He said, “I can only imagine the difficulties in families that they’re trying to juggle staying in housing, an eviction moratorium, challenges of students with special needs and all of the things that came. We did the best we could to prioritize during this time, but the clear understanding that so much more needs to be done.
“So that’s why in our budget, the number one issue and the top focus is recovery of education among students. We’re going to put the resources and the money where the best expectation could happen.”
And then he talked a lot about getting funding from the American Rescue Plan and IDEA funding. And then right after, the Lieutenant Governor responded as well, and she talked about how when Governor Walz was Congressman Walz, she actually visited him in DC as a school board member and talked about getting more commitment for funding for schools.
What was your reaction to that response and that answer?
Deqa: I was really encouraged, and I was hopeful. I really appreciate Governor Walz and Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan for really just kind of uplifting and putting the issues of the disability community upfront. I really enjoyed the community engagement. I think a lot of what is missing is kind of the family engagement in these decision-making policies or whatnot.
So, I was hopeful and encouraged.
Trevor: Absolutely. And what’s your confidence that Lieutenant Governor will follow through with their promise?
Deqa: I’m very – I’m pretty confident. I think one of the things that she spoke about is about having families kind of give feedback on some of these services that are being provided and the funding that goes into resources. So, I’m confident since she is asking for us to give feedback, I’m confident the Walz administration will follow through on their promises.
Trevor: Great. And then finally, how do you think the disability community can work, and what can we do to hold the Governor accountable?
Deqa: Yeah, that’s a really good question. I think from just as disability advocates we really have to stay vigilant and continue to kind of put the issues that the disability community really sees important and at the forefront, and continue to write to our legislators and our senators and our Governor about what is important for not only of our community, but also our children.
Trevor: And how is your son and everything you’re doing now?
Deqa: We’re still struggling with the distant learning but we’re hopeful and looking forward to the policies and the funding that hopefully will come our way and touch our family and families like ours.
Trevor: Okay, thank you so much Deqa. I can say that as a son of a mother who was very, very focused on my education and made sure that I got all the things I need. I want to thank you as a parent for doing so much for your son and being a part of the community and being an advocate. We need those kinds of parents in our community.
Well, thank you so much. Do you have any final words, or anything you’d like to say to the disability community?
Deqa: Yeah, not really. The only thing I want to just add is that family engagement is really important. At the end of the day, these resources and this funding is really targeted for families. So, I would really encourage the policymakers to make sure that the families are also at the table when these decisions are being made.
Trevor: Yes, absolutely. As we say in the disability community, nothing about us without us.
Trevor: We know what our needs are the best and we are the best policymakers when it comes to disability.
So, thank you so much. Thanks for being here and we look forward to talking and working with you more to make sure that these needs in education are being met. So, thanks and have a good day.
Describer: White text on a black background.
[On screen text:] Minnesota Council on Disability Legislative Forum.
Centered on the screen is a white square with the state logo, a blue M, green N. Minnesota Council on Disability. Underneath the white square, we have white text on a black background.
[On screen text:] For more information about the MCD Public Policy Program contact Trevor.Turner@state.mn.us.