Re: Private school placements

Discussion in 'Special Ed 101' started by Sheila, Oct 2, 2007.

  1. Sheila

    Sheila Moderator

    Dispute on private school payments heard

    By Mark Sherman, Associated Press Writer | October 1, 2007

    "WASHINGTON --Taxpayers shouldn't be asked to pick up the cost of private schooling for special education children who don't first give public schools a chance, New York City's top appeals lawyer told the Supreme Court Monday.

    Arguing on the first day of the court's new term, Leonard Koerner urged the justices not to make it easier for parents to be reimbursed for private schooling in situations where school districts contend they can take care of children's special needs.

    The parent in the case before the court "had no contact with the system at all," Koerner said.

    There is no question that the wealthy parent in this case, former Viacom CEO Tom Freston, can afford private schooling for his son, Gilbert.

    But Freston, in a statement, said he wasn't pressing the case for personal gain.

    "Children with special education needs have a right, without jumping through hoops, to attend schools capable of providing them with an education that accommodates their individual needs regardless of their family's financial means," Freston wrote.

    Several justices were skeptical of Freston's claims.

    Justice Antonin Scalia said affluent parents who have no intention of using public schools might think "what the heck, if we can get $30,000 from the city, that's fine."

    Freston's lawyer, Paul G. Gardephe, said Congress made clear that it did not want children subjected to inadequate education just to satisfy a technicality of trying out a public school before switching to a better-suited private school.

    Justice Samuel Alito agreed that such a requirement "makes no sense whatsoever."

    Freston's son was diagnosed with learning disabilities in the late 1990s. The family's solution was to send the boy to the Stephen Gaynor School, a top-notch but expensive Manhattan academy for children with learning problems.

    Freston sued the city after he asked it to pay his son's tuition and the city refused.

    Federal law demands such payments when a public school system is unable to properly deal with a student's disability, but in this case New York said it could do the job. It recommended that the boy attend the city-run Lower Laboratory School for Gifted Education.

    Freston won in lower courts and the city appealed to the Supreme Court. Gilbert Freston, now a teenager, has transferred to mainstream schools, his father said.

    Nationwide, the number of special education students placed in private schools at public expense has risen steadily, from about 52,012 pupils in 1996 to 71,082 in 2005, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Overall, however, the number of such placements remains small -- just 1.1 percent of the country's 6.1 million special education students.

    In New York, a growing number of parents have been exploring a private-school option. During the 2002-2003 school year, the city received 3,908 tuition reimbursement requests, Best said. By the 2005-2006 school year, that number had jumped to 4,804.

    A decision is expected by spring.

    The case is Board of Education of City of New York v. Tom F., 06-637."

    It will be interesting to see how this plays out.
  2. Martie

    Martie Moderator

    Thanks Sheila.

    I have a really bad feeling about this one. I think the SD is going to win, and then when will be "enough" of a trial in public school be concluded.

    I heard it discussed on PBS and someone blithely said, "If the parent disagrees, there is a mechanism for resolving disputes in place. The parent has rights to Due Proces." AAARRGGHH

    This is likely to be especially bad for kids who are depressed. While they "try" public school, who will keep them safe?

  3. SRL

    SRL Active Member

    I greatly appreciate what private schools offer in terms of broadening the scope of educational settings. But honestly I can't blame the district's reaction to situations such as the above. They don't want to go into the business of providing vouchers to special education students to attend the private schools of their choice.
  4. Martie

    Martie Moderator

    The law has provided for this since 1975 as a back stop for parents when the SD JUST WON'T SERVE.

    Often now a SD SAYS is can provide FAPE, but can't. This argument is over whether parents must physically place their child within a public school for X amount of time to qualify for outplacement. I agree that some parents can be unreasonable, and if a child has a "run of the mill" disability, then the parents should not be reimbursed for something the SD clearly provides all the time. On the other hand, it is dangerous in my opinion to force public school attendance on certain types of highly unstable kids as a hoop to jump through.

    It's a difficult area to strike a balance, but for sure, with NCLB pressure the public SD will not want to educate ALL kids on site.

  5. svengandhi

    svengandhi Well-Known Member

    I have mixed feelings about this case. I should preface by saying that I have a child whose private school is being paid for by my SD. Although I live in a suburb, the school he goes to is in NYC proper and most of his classmates are funded by NYC DOE. The boy around whom the lawsuit revolves is the son of one of the richest men in the country. I find it upsetting that someone who can so clearly afford to pay the private school fee is taking money from the city because that means that another child, whose family can't afford the tuition, will not have the same opportunity. If I were a millionaire, I would pay my son's private school tuition and I think this guy should pay his own kid's.

    The other issue is how much, if any, time is a child required to stay in district before outside or private placement can be sought. This boy did not spend one day in the public school. My son, who is dyslexic (which is what I think this kid is) spent K-5 in public school. Once they accepted that he is dyslexic, they did a great job remediating his reading with Orton-Gillingham and Wilson. He was given an Alpha smart and an array of assistance. The main reason he is now in private school is that the middle school was not equipped to handle him - they handle lower functioning kids very well in a self-contained class and an inclusion class and kids who need less help with every other day resource, but they have no gifted Learning Disability (LD) program. IF this lawsuit kid is dyslexic, I fully believe that the NYC public schools (the system I was educated in myself) could help him.

    How long is too long to try? It depends. If you try Wilson or O-G for a semester and the kid is not getting it, he likely needs it more intensively than the ps can do it. My son did not need that intensity then, though there are kids who do. If you have a kid who is severely autistic and there's no autistic class in the ps that has kids like him, send him to private school right away. If your child has physical handicaps and the building can't accommodate, don't make them suffer, find a place where they can wheel around or where their seeing eye dog is welcome. In any event, I think it should never be more than one semester to one year to judge if progress is being made.

    I really think I might feel differently if the family involved was not so damned rich!
  6. Sheila

    Sheila Moderator

    I can understand where you're coming from with-the parent wealth factor, but I feel all our children should have equal rights to a public education.

    All I know about the situation is what I read in the one article. I don't know for a fact, but with all the time consuming, frustrating, aggravation that goes with fighting for a child's rights, I suspect affordability isn't his primary motivating factor. More than likely, this is a matter of principal.

    The way the system is, it takes parents with pretty deep pockets to fight for their child's education rights in the courts. School districts' count on parents not being able to fund litigation. It's not unusual for school districts to pool their money in order to help a school district win a particular case and set a precedent.

    There are successes, but more parents loose than win.

    NY seems to be a state that has a higher than typical rate for private education funded by school districts. It's a fairly rare event in our area -- and it's nearly always after the knock-down-drag-out battle.

    How long is too long to try? Every instance is different. But based on what I see, "too long" is the norm rather than the exception.
  7. Martie

    Martie Moderator

    Sheila took the words right out of my word processor :smile:

    The ONLY parents who can get a case to the Supreme Court are very rich, or extremely poor and represented by a legal aid clinic usually associated with a law school. Therefore, I am not surprised that this family could afford tuition. they are not depriving another child in my opinion; they are fighting for other children. However, I still think they will lose.

    Amy Rowley's parents paid for her private education while the case went through the courts. They lost and were not reimbursed, giving us the "Rowley test" that stands today. Amy Rowley is on the faculty of the U of WI--not a real typical outcome for a profoundly deaf child. This is a direct result of the education her parents provided. Would she be at WI if she had stayed in public school? I doubt it.

    Another example is Winkleman that came down in June: they had all sorts of offers of free representation, but the principle that parents may represent their child is district court was the issue. They won, not that many parents are capable of going into district coutrt pro se, but the principle is very important.

    in my opinion the people who are hurt cannot self-fund a legal fight, and do not interest/qualify for legal aid. To be a legal aid case, it is important to be "interesting" as well as poor.

    I also agree with Sheila NY has a large number of outplacements in comparison to other SDs around the nation. I am not sure why this is so, but there was a boy in the PG ahead of my ex-difficult child's at EGBS who was funded by NY city schools. Every other kid there was private pay. A strong case can be made that a large public high school is a very dangerous place for an adolescent with severe depression. It is these students for whom "try our school for a semester (or a year)" could be fatal. I am very glad that I had the resources to go with the private placement without regard to the SD not giving a rat's --- about my son's life. In the end, they did not have to pay. In the end, if his next suicide gesture had been more than, he would be dead and they would still not give a rat's ---. That is my firm belief and I can back it up: every year my son WOULD have been in public h.s., there was a successful suicide in the high school he would have attended. The SD made no policy changes so I guess they just do not care enough to change. Suicide is contagious among depressed youth. A single suicide increases the risk of another by over 300%. I think those odds justified removing ex-difficult child immediately but the H.O. was very offended that we did not "give the SD a chance"--to what, let him die? by the way the same hearing officer said it was "inconvenient" for a Special Education student to need AP math, advanced science and German. Perhaps we should have argued that the SD could not provide gifted Special Education.

    As you can see, I feel strongly about what happens to depressed internalizers in public secondary school. What if removing ex-difficult child to a private placement had not been an option? I am not rich, but neither am I poor. Lots of people are in the middle and it is those kids I worry most about.

    Thank you for your comments.

  8. svengandhi

    svengandhi Well-Known Member

    I agree that every child should have the right to FAPE. I also completely understand the argument that very few middle class families can afford to fight for that right - I am not rich either and had I not been able to prevail based on the SD's perceptions about me as an attorney, I could not have afforded to fund a fight for very long. That said, I am concerned that the justices will not see a child in need of an education at the city's expense, just a wealthy parent trying to get an education he could pay for at the city's expense. I would have preferred if this guy used his money to fund a test case for a middle class child rather than his own, I think there might be a better chance for a successful outcome (which to me is the right for a parent to choose not to have to send their child to PS if FAPE can't be achieved there).

    As for the how long argument - my understanding is that this child did not spend ONE day in a public school. I completely agree that sending a depressed adolescent to a huge high school is not a good idea (I removed my oldest son from the regular HS after grade 9), but I presume that by that point, you had already tried the PS system and found it personally wanting. There is no need, in my humble opinion, to try the district HS if the middle school has failed you, but I do think that a try should be made at the K or 1 level, even if for a short time. Do I think that a family needs to try placement or classroom after placement and classroom before seeking a private school? Absolutely not, but a semester or so at level K or 1 will not destroy most kids. Those that it would are special cases and if their families can document their needs (like severe autism, deafness, blindness, etc) they should be permitted to forego a stint in the public school. For many Learning Disability (LD) kids, my own included, the PS was not horrible and it was worth the time he spent there. When the benefit of PS could no longer be justified, then it was time to seek private placement.

    The problem is where reality hits up against need. There is more need out there than there is money. The feds are not paying their fair share (in my humble opinion) especially in a state like NY, and so not everyone can get what they want, even if it is what they need. That is the sad part.

    As for your comment about your son's needs being inconvenient, I relate to that as well. I was also told that my son's needing accelerated math and science presented a problem because there were no peers to place him with in resource room! I said he doesn't need peers, he needs help with writing!

    Bottom line is that all of us want all kids to have the best possible education and I hope and pray that the SD does not prevail here - I am just concerned about the type of situation involved here and whether or not the court will come down with a decision that doesn't help families in the long run.
  9. Sheila

    Sheila Moderator

    <div class="ubbcode-block"><div class="ubbcode-header">Quote:</div><div class="ubbcode-body">As for your comment about your son's needs being inconvenient, I relate to that as well. I was also told that my son's needing accelerated math and science presented a problem because there were no peers to place him with in resource room! I said he doesn't need peers, he needs help with writing! </div></div>

    It's impossible for parents to have confidence in a purported professional that takes such a position.

    There are a lot of good people in special education, but this type rationale is not foreign to the special education process. There's just enough of them out there to create havoc, and unfortunately, they are involved in decisions regarding private placements.

    <div class="ubbcode-block"><div class="ubbcode-header">Quote:</div><div class="ubbcode-body">
    The problem is where reality hits up against need. There is more need out there than there is money.</div></div>

    Very true.