Should public schools pay for private school tuition?

A decision by the U.S. Supreme Court says the federal special education law authorizes public school districts to reimburse families for private school tuition even if the student never received special education services from the school system.

The 6-3 decision from the court addressed amendments to the Individuals with Disabilities Act. (The case is Forest Grove School District v. T.A., case 08-305.)

Many special education advocates cheered the ruling saying it shows schools can’t ignore their responsibilities to students and families. They said many school districts make decisions to save money instead of acting in the best interest of students and their families.

But groups representing schools boards said the ruling may discourage collaboration between public schools and families.

They said the ruling could take more away from school districts and that many families may think they could automatically seek tuition reimbursement without first trying to get services from the public school system.

Georgia already provides vouchers for students with disabilities to attend private schools.

The voucher is worth whatever the local public school would have received to teach the child, meaning it may not cover the entire tuition at a private school.

Also, Georgia requires students to attend a public school for at least one year to be eligible for the voucher. The Supreme Court decision says families may be eligible for tuition reimbursement even if the child never received special education services from a public school.

Do you think public schools should have to pay for special education students to attend private schools? If so, under what conditions?

35 comments Add your comment

Seen it all

June 23rd, 2009
8:48 am

Of course not. Case closed.

Dan

June 23rd, 2009
8:55 am

Public schools don’t pay for anything! Public schools are the quintesential one way street as far as money goes. Taxpayers pay for everything to do with the schools and then some. If the taxpayers in a particular district decide vouchers are the way to go, (as any argument with an iota of sense must conclude)then of course they should. If they disagree then it they shouldn’t.

ScienceTeacher671

June 23rd, 2009
9:40 am

I tend to agree more with the dissenters in this case, but this is an interesting case for a couple of reasons.

First, the Court notes “that administrative and judicial review of a parent’s complaint often takes years” and that “when a child requires special-education services, a school district’s failure to propose an IEP of any kind is at least as serious a violation of its responsibilities under IDEA as a failure to provide an adequate IEP.” This theme of schools refusing to identify students with clear needs is repeated throughout the opinion.

This might (at least eventually) have ramifications in Georgia because of the length of time it usually takes just to get a child tested under the SST and now RTI protocols. (It has always seemed to me that if a child has obvious learning problems/deficiencies, testing to eliminate auditory/visual/mental processing problems ought to be a first step, not a last step.)

Secondly, it appears that the parents who removed their children from the public school system opted for schools that provided a smaller & more structured program. What ramifications does this have for the current trend of removing students from smaller, more structured resource classrooms and including them in the regular classroom? Are parents being consulted as to what sort of classroom environment their children need, or are they just being told how their children will be placed?

Dan

June 23rd, 2009
10:36 am

Science teacher,
While clearly whether public or private it is vital to properly assess kids with special needs (maybe even more vital not to misdiagnos a child that is not special needs) However it is exactly the type of red tape and bureaucratic nonsense that drives people to seek other means to educate their kids. Aside from the obvious educational cost caused by the delay the financial cost of managing such an obtuse process is why government schools are far more expensive to run per pupil

William Casey

June 23rd, 2009
11:17 am

Special Ed has become a scam since the “behavioral disorder” was added. Many parents are simply looking for private schools that will kiss their kids’ a$$es like they did. MEMO to such parents: the real world won’t tolerate this. Prepare for your brat to live in your basement forever!

high school teacher

June 23rd, 2009
11:23 am

If the public school must reimburse for sped kids in private school, then regular ed reimbursements aren’t far behind.

If a school is not equipped to serve a child’s special needs, then the public school should pay for it. However, if a parent chooses not to use services that have already been paid for, then he or she should not receive additional funding to educate his or her child.

Dan

June 23rd, 2009
11:30 am

high school teacher, the catch is if the school doesn’t provide said services, the customer has the right to get their money back no?
which is exactly why vouchers are not only necessary but the only logical option

lyncoln

June 23rd, 2009
11:41 am

Hmmm, I wonder if you could argue taking a gifted child from a school system and sending them to a private school for more advanced/accelerated course work would fall under this type of ruling?

Gifted could easily be considered a special education category and if the school doesn’t provide “gifted” or “honors” courses, you could argue that the school isn’t provided the ‘fair and adequate teaching environment’ that lead to this court decision.

From a purely legal standpoint, I think the court decision is a correct interpretation of the intent of the law. However, I fear that this ruling will result in costing money that the public school systems can’t afford. This is just going to force school systems to spend tons of extra money that doesn’t exist in the budget. I predict a new growth industry — special education private schools. You’re assured that the local public schoos will be covering the tuition costs.

echo

June 23rd, 2009
12:55 pm

Lets just shut down ALL public k-12 schools, nobody has to pay the portion of their taxes (personal property, splosts or sales taxes) that pays for education and parents are now responsible for paying for their child(ren)’s education. Problem solved.

Angela

June 23rd, 2009
1:04 pm

Public schools don’t pay for anything. Taxpayers do. As a taxpayer, I PAY for public schools. And as the mother of a special needs child who is delayed be 2-4 years, I ALSO PAY for private school. This isn’t a question of whether the public schools should pay her private school tuition. This is a question of whether, as a tax-paying citizen, my child’s education should be funded just like that of every other child.

It's all good

June 23rd, 2009
1:11 pm

Anything short of violence and lawbreaking that threatens the dysfunctional monolith of the public school system is a good thing.

Show us the data

June 23rd, 2009
1:18 pm

Notice that those who came on here yesterday, trying to maximize the blame for teachers and minimize the societal factors that teachers face, when directly confronted with a scenario that would challenge that assumption (yesterday’s post at 4:02 pm) suddenly have nothing to say?

I think there is a word for that. Checkmate.

catlady

June 23rd, 2009
1:44 pm

All kids should have the best environment for their learning, not just sp ed kids. I can say that very reg ed or gifted kids have their needs met. And with Georgia adopting RTI, virtually NO KIDS get sp ed placement now unless their handicaps are extremely severe or obvious, or if they come in from a non-RTI state with IEP in place (and then, when they go through re-eval, we “discover” they are no longer “sp ed”. I have already seen this.)

Wm Casey, it is virtually impossible to get a BD diagnosis from the school system anymore. You are operating on what used to be true 10 years ago.

Remember: inclusion and needs-based groups solve every problem!

Show us the data

June 23rd, 2009
1:51 pm

Notice the bloggers who came on here yesterday to maximize blame for teachers and minimize the societal factors teacher face, when directly confronted, in a 4:02 pm post, with a scenario that would force them to justify their statements, suddenly had nothing to say?

I think there is a word for that. Checkmate.

ScienceTeacher671

June 23rd, 2009
1:59 pm

Show us the data, maybe there is an option 3: Your 4:02 p.m. post made little to no sense.

Show us the data

June 23rd, 2009
3:07 pm

It made no sense? Then I’ll explain.

People like the posters yesterday, and Maureen Downey want to blast teachers to kingdom come for daring to suggest that home environment, the raw material as it were, has anything to do with the results teachers have.

They want to take teachers to task for not having the training; not having the expertise; not having the accountability; not having the desire; not having engaging enough lessons; in short they want to look at anything to blame the teacher, and nothing that would hold the home environment accountable.

Well, if it is really almost exclusively the teacher, and how they manage things consider the following.

Your life depends on managing a team, much like a teacher manages a classroom, to win a best 4 out of 7 baseball series.

You are giving two choices.

A) You get a year of the best one on one training, with the best baseball managers in the world. In other words, you are giving all the best expert training that teacher bashers say, if was in effect, would cut out any excuses teacher have. Then, you are given 25 people for your baseball team. Chosen at random. From the phonebook. They may not be the most naturally gifted at baseball, but if you’re a teacher basher, that doesn’t matter, because you’ve been given the very best training, and after all, what the teacher does overrides every other factor, right? Then you are given 8 months to work with them, just like a teacher gets for the CRCT.

B) You are given only one day of training, just enough to learn the basic rules and fill out a lineup card. Then you are give a team of 25 as well. Randomly selected. Only your players are randomly selected from a group who is currently playing in the College World Series. And instead of being given 8 months to train them, you are given 8 minutes to talk to them before the first game of the series.

I want to know if the teacher bashers, who claim it’s almost exclusively the teacher, the manager of the class if you will, are going to be consistent and chose A, because according to them, it’s almost all exclusively the teacher, and according to them, the only real problem we need to address is teacher quality and teacher training.

Of course when presented with this scenario, they fell silent, because while it make be politically expedient to exclusively blame teachers, it doesn’t realistically address what is wrong in education today.

Jim SPED

June 23rd, 2009
3:48 pm

FYI-IDEA gives parents the right to request their child be tested for services. This request ends any RTI proceedure and the child in question begins testing for services under IDEA.

Ray

June 23rd, 2009
4:05 pm

My neighbor has twin boys, teenagers, and both are God awful trouble. She got some of that Bush money for home school so that she could keep them at home and teach them, being that they were always suspended anyway. But all she did with the tax-payer money was buy a big screen and a refigerator, and all they do is sit around in the basement all day watching movies and smoking pot.

It may not be perfect, but the public schools at least provide SOME accountability for our tax dime. Home school and private can take that five grand a year and do whatever they want.

Dr. Craig Spinks /Evans

June 23rd, 2009
4:45 pm

Private school enrollments for public school students who demonstrate severe disciplinary problems?

Veteran teacher

June 23rd, 2009
4:52 pm

I’m with Dr. Spinks on that one. I would love to see students with severe disciplinary problems enrolled in a private school! Not going to happen. …And, guess where they will go to school??

Dan

June 23rd, 2009
5:38 pm

show us the data,
People didn’t respond because your post is inane and confrontational, but I will humor you. First of all it is pretty close to universally accepted that the home environment is paramount. Having said that one of the biggest problems is students and parents perception that an education is owed to them. But this is the raw materials society has to work with. The other fact that is just as indisputable is that based on the census ELHI teachers are by far the most numerous degreed profession. Second is nursing with about half. What this means is the average teacher is…well average. So trying to educate all children by giving then excellant teachers is simply impossible, there simply aren’t enough good ones to go around (though I submit 1 great teacher with 30 students would yield better results than 2 avg teachers with 15)
What teachers are really being called to task for is the reluctance to be objectively evaluated and held accountable for their performance. Now I realize this is not an easy task. But that is the heart of the issue. I know I will get a lot of flak and you have never been there etc. and all that is true, but I have been on the other side of the class through MBA with a couple of guest stints in front of a masters class, and as with any profession there are good, bad and run of the mill. But other professions have much more accountability and usually less responsibility which is where the frustration arises

jim d

June 23rd, 2009
5:41 pm

catlady

June 23rd, 2009
5:45 pm

Jim SP ED, unfortunately the parents have to have the knowledge and wherewithall to make the request and follow up on it doggedly. While lots of upper middle class parents have the requisite social and cultural capital, relatively few lower class people do. And then, at least in our system, there is every kind of foot-dragging possible. On top of that, our psych could not evaluate his way out of a paper bag. He produces the most crappy reports after spending an hour with the kid. (He suggests that the teacher “Seat the student in a different place” and “Reward appropriate behavior” for example.) This year, he did a re-eval on the wrong kid (all “those” kids look alike, right?) and did not discover it till he had spent his required hour doing the most basic, bare-bones “evaluation” possible (but he hadn’t written it up yet!)

Those who think there are too many kids identified as sp ed have never come to my county! We have kids in 5th grade working on a low 2nd grade level who “fail to qualify.” Virtually no child tests into sp ed; they have to come from another place with an IEP in place.

high school teacher

June 23rd, 2009
6:06 pm

Okay, I see your point, Dan and Angela. How about we just get rid of special education in public schools altogether, and create private special ed schools that are already funded with taxpayer money? That might make more people happy.

Show us the data

June 23rd, 2009
8:23 pm

Dan,

“First of all it is pretty close to universally accepted that the home environment is paramount”

Unfortunately it’s not. It’s becoming a common mantra among educrats, who look to scapegoat teachers because they don’t wish to confront parents, that all it takes is the right expert training, and home doesn’t matter at all.

“there simply aren’t enough good ones to go around (though I submit 1 great teacher with 30 students would yield better results than 2 avg teachers with 15)”

And I would submit to you, that if we put the responsibility on learning on the student, and held the student accountable in terms of behavior and academics like we should, we would find that even an average teacher would yield more than acceptable results, even with 30 kids. One only has to look at other countries to see this is true.

“What teachers are really being called to task for is the reluctance to be objectively evaluated and held accountable for their performance”

A) Develop objective standards to evaluate them B) Develop polices that protect teachers from retaliatory observations, a commonplace occurrence that no one is willing to address-heck even when the General Assembly passed whistleblower protection a few years back, it specifically excluded teachers-and I think you’d have more teacher buy-in. If not, shame on teachers then.

“But other professions have much more accountability and usually less responsibility which is where the frustration arises”

I would challenge you to name one other profession, where the managers are held accountable, yet those they supervise routinely A) do not work B) disrupt others from working C) verbally abuse the manager, and in some cases even physically assault the manager when the manager attempts to intervene. And most importantly, the manager is routinely forced to accept these behaviors, and those who perpetrate them, back into the workplace even in cases of physical assault, with little or no consequence to those who engage in these behaviors.

I’m not saying it happens every day in every classroom. But that happens far, far more than we are willing to admit, and I’d challenge you to find one other profession other than teaching that tolerates it.

The bottom line is, if we are going to be ethical when we hold teachers accountable, then we must give them the authority to maintain the order needed to do their job. And I agree, some will be woeful and deserve to be weeded out. But right now, the most woeful thing is that we are more willing to set teachers up to fail by not giving them the authority to maintain order, then turn around and blame them for failing.

And that, in a nutshell is why teachers don’t buy into “reform”. Because as it stands now, it’s facade.

Jim SPED

June 23rd, 2009
8:29 pm

I make it a point to tell those unknowing parents or guardians. It appears your county is asking for someone to go to the FEDs ans complain.

ScienceTeacher671

June 23rd, 2009
10:18 pm

Show us the data, teachers like Jaime Escalante (Stand and Deliver) get movies made about them because they are exceptional.

Unfortunately, the rest of the world sees such movies and expects all of us to be like that. We may be average, we may be good, we might even be very good – but by definition, very few of us are going to be exceptional, in ANY field.

Show us the data

June 23rd, 2009
10:32 pm

ScienceTeacher671, it seems the same people who are calling for teachers to be exceptional, fall completely silent when it comes to advocating for exceptional, or even acceptable teaching conditions and will do nothing to address the lack of consequences for student that destroy the learning environment with behaviors that are dysfunctional at best, and abusive at worst.

I guess it’s easier to blame teachers than it is to look in the mirror. Could be why, when you ask them direct questions that point out the logical implications of their stances, they suddenly have nothing to say.

I don’t know of a single profession, other than teaching, that holds managers accountable for the performance of those under them, yet allows those they supervise to not work, disrupt others, become verbally abusive and even physically abusive, yet the manager is given little to no authority to discipline them, and is even expected to repeatedly take them back with little to no consequences.

Apparently none of those who are bashing teachers do either, because they have yet to name one.

Lee

June 24th, 2009
8:09 am

This is just another example of why they should repeal the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This legislation has done almost as much damage to public schools as the Brown vs. Board decision.

Dan

June 24th, 2009
8:30 am

I dont disagree with most of your post “show us” thats why I commented the major problem is people perceiving education as a right instead of an opportunity. Back to the original issue, that is exactly why vouchers are the answer it would provide those who care an alternative, those who don’t..well the world needs ditch diggers too, that may sound cold but the alternative (what we have now!) is dragging high acheives, even average acheivers down to the lowest common denominator in the name of political correctness and “equality”. Vouchers would provide opportunities for both kids and teachers, by driving up demand for private school and creating environments where those who truly choose to teach can do so.

Show us the data

June 24th, 2009
1:04 pm

Dan,

While I see the merit in the arguments that vouchers can have adverse consequences, that argument is totally superseded by one word: Choice.

If some public schools suffer because the enlightened parents move their children out of environments where out of control behavior is the norm, maybe then those schools, and school systems, will finally address the issue. And if not, why hold back the children of the parents who do the right thing?

You might also find that there are some teachers who would embrace having choices as well.

David S

June 24th, 2009
1:05 pm

All government schools are funded through theft from the impacted taxpayers. It is an immoral process that does not become any less immoral if the money pays for special education, education of the poor, or anything else deemed “worthy” by our benevolent overlords.

Charity is charity and by definition it is given voluntarily. This would never be an issue if every parent either paid for their child’s education or received a scholarship or direct charity for that purpose.

Lets restore morality to our society, beginning with an elimination of the government school system and its theft-based funding mechanism.

Historydawg

June 24th, 2009
2:25 pm

Dan, check the history books and you will find that our founding fathers (e.g., Jefferson) advocated public schools, local communities since the early 1800s funded local schools, and Americans generally rejected the education of aristocracy and religious autocracy found in Europe. Talk about morality: how can you reject your obligation to live in a society, community, democracy? Theft is more accurately described as your shirking of the responsibilities of freedom.

[...] and prejudice runs so deep and is so pervasive.  Don’t believe me?  Look at the Atlanta Journal Constitution blog on the subject and read the comments.  Students with disabilities are routinely scapegoated in the comments, [...]

jeani mitchell

July 19th, 2009
2:48 pm

I am the mother of general education students. Why can’t I choose what achool best fits my childs needs and have the district pay for it? Special education spending is sucking money from my children to pay for extravagant services for special ed. students. All I want is equal services.