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supreme court allows special educators to gouge families

Posted Jun 23 2009 6:00pm
In the special education law case of Forest Grove school district vs. T.A. the supreme court has rendered a verdict The question before the supreme court was whether or not school districts were legally obligated to pay private school tuition even if no alternative had been tried with the public schools. The student ,T.A., had attended a private residential school costing more than $60,000 per year. The issue at hand was a 1997 amendment to the IDEA stating that parents could enroll their children in private schools on the taxpayer's dime if the public schools did not offer a free and appropriate education in a timely manner. The supreme court ruled in a 6-3 decision that school districts are obligated to pay for private school even if no special ed services were ever rendered.

For some strange reason T.A. was not identified as having ADHD and learning disabilities until well in adolescence. It was during his junior year in high school that his parents had taken him out of the public school in which he had apparently never received special education services in elementary, middle school, and well into his high school education. I have to wonder why the parents had not noticed there was something wrong with their son until he was a teenager and then apparently decided to send him to this residential school at a cost of more than $5,000/month.

The New York times article goes on to state that the City of New York filed a friend of the court brief supporting the Forest Grove school district in Oregon. The amount of money that NYC spends on private school tuition for disabled children has jumped from 53 million to 89 million in only two years. I wonder how much more it will jump in New York and in other cities because of the supreme court's decision.

David Souter, a more rational head on the U.S. Supreme court and one of the three dissenters of the ruling ,stated the implications well:

“Special education can be immensely expensive, amounting to tens of billions of dollars annually and as much as 20 percent of public schools’ general operating budgets,” Justice Souter wrote. “Given the burden of private school placement, it makes good sense to require parents to try to devise a satisfactory alternative within the public schools.”

In light of the supreme court's decision in the Shannon Carter case saying that taxpayers were required to pick up the tab for uncredentialed personnel teaching disabled children, one has to think about the implications. It will only mean private special education schools of dubious value will be an even bigger growth industry than ever before.

Apparently anyone who decides they have autism or Asperger's syndrome well into adulthood can start their own private school or become a consultant without licensing or credentialing of any kind. one example of this phenomena is valerie paradiz formerly an instructor at Bard College and author of the book, Elijah's cup, dealing with her son's asperger's syndrome then her own realization well into adulthood that she herself was on the spectrum in spite of being a college professor and a one time wife and mother. Ms. Paradiz has a Ph.D. in English literature with no training or formal credentials whatsoever in the field of autism or autism education. This did not stop her from pursuing a career as an autism consultant and apparently opening up her own private special ed school for persons on the autism spectrum. How many more Valerie Paradizs and $100 an hour phone consultation William Stillmans will come out of the woodwork with this new decision?

The Carter decision also set the precedent for a New York court decision Malkowitz v. DeBuono which paved the way for uncredentialed, untrained Lovaas/ABA therapists to practice at taxpayer expense.

These court decisions paved the way for allowing ABA to become a cottage industry, at least in the USA, allowing 20-year-old college students with no training, experience whatsoever to come to people's homes and be Lovaas therapists.

Because of this decision and T.A.'s parents' decision to wait until he was well into adolescence to send him to this exorbitantly expensive private school, he will probably have the taxpayers picking up the tab for all sorts of special ed goodies until he is aged out of the system at 21 or 22. How many other kids will this affect? Again, I do question what difference these private schools will make in their lives as well as the very expensive ABA therapies. How much will it really help them? Perhaps the money would be better spent using a suggestion I made in a previous gadfly post

I wonder how much money will be lost in property tax revenues from the various cities. How much will the education of regular education students suffer? Will this mean that houses get burglarized and burned down because there is no money left in municipality's budgets for police and fire protection after they are decimated with all the children who will be able to more easily attend private special ed schools on the taxpayer's dime? Then, if IDEA is ever fully funded with the federal government picking up 40% of the costs we have to wonder where all the money for federal expenditures will come from after they end up applying for social security and section 8 housing as adults after these private schools have not helped them function better in society at all.
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