View Full Version : Forest Grove v. T.A.


APSJ
06-22-09, 05:01 PM
In a decision that could cost school districts millions of dollars, the United States Supreme Court ruled on Monday that parents of special-education students may seek government reimbursement for private school tuition, even if they have never received special-education services in public school.http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/23/education/23special.html?_r=1

I haven't read the opinion yet, but its safe to say that this is a significant victory for students with disabilities and their parents.

While this case was not really about ADHD, I think it is noteworthy that the student at the center of it was diagnosed with ADHD, and the school district's failure to identify it and address it is ultimately what gave rise to the suit. I don't know how many people not already involved in special education in one way or another will read about this case, but I'm optimistic that some of those who do may have to rethink their views of ADHD. While the legitimacy of ADHD wasn't at issue, it can only help to have the U.S. Supreme Court treats it with the seriousness it warrants.

Of particular significance, in my mind, is the fact that this was a 6-3 decision, and one of the dissenters was Justice Souter, who will be replaced next term, most likely by Judge Sotomayor. While there's no way to know how she would have voted here, in the abstract, it seems more likely that she would have voted for the parents, with Stevens, Ginsburg, Breyer, Kennedy, Alito, and Roberts, than for the District, with Scalia and Thomas. If this is true, then this can be seen as a significant positive indicator of how the court may rule on other major special education issues that are likely to come before it in the not too distant future.

Fierwing
06-22-09, 06:06 PM
I don't know how many people not already involved in special education in one way or another will read about this case, but I'm optimistic that some of those who do may have to rethink their views of ADHD. While the legitimacy of ADHD wasn't at issue, it can only help to have the U.S. Supreme Court treats it with the seriousness it warrants.

That's a great outcome, but it could hurt public support for special education more than it helps. Particularly if, like the article above, the majority of news outlets have also chosen to lead into coverage like this:

In a decision that could cost school districts millions of dollars[...]

I've heard many unfortunate opinions from people who feel money is being spent on special education at the expense of 'normal' students, frequently accompanied by the extremely appalling insinuation that educating 'those kids' is a waste of money anyway. I was also shocked at how much resentment is out there from parents who don't feel that their children should be 'forced' to have classes with special needs students.

Maybe I'm just being a little too cynical, but I fear that a fair percentage of the general public, who have been untouched by such things, will look at this and see resources being taken away from 'more deserving' children.

Pessimism aside, it is fantastic to see such support from the Supreme Court. Particularly given the ludicrous grounds the school district used to deny reimbursement.

APSJ
06-22-09, 08:30 PM
That's a great outcome, but it could hurt public support for special education more than it helps. Particularly if, like the article above, the majority of news outlets have also chosen to lead into coverage like this:


Yeah, I noticed that, but was too elated to pay much attention.(I've been watching this case pretty closely). I first read about it here (http://www.patriciaebauer.com/2009/06/22/high-court-special-education/), and I think it gave me false hope that this would be helpful to public opinion about ADHD. I also thought the NY Times focus on the cost might be related to NYC's involvement in the case(and a prior one, originating in NY, addressing the same issue that ended in a deadlock)

Sadly, the coverage I've seen so far in the mainstream media seems to emphasize the cost to school districts, and in some cases really mischaracterize what the case is about:

The Supreme Court on Monday shifted the landscape for students with learning disabilities, saying parents can in many instances bypass public school special education programs and be reimbursed for private school tuition instead.

The court ruled 6-3 in favor of a teenage boy from Oregon whose parents sought to force their local public school district to pay the $5,200 a month it cost to send their son to a private school.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/06/22/AR2009062200817.html?hpid=topnews

This idea that this case is about parents bypassing public schools so they can put their kids in expensive private schools is really outrageous. The school in this case declined to provide services, and then argued that its refusal to give this student services should protect it from having to pay for the services the parents were forced to obtain privately. The only school districts that this will help parents bypass are those that make themselves obstacles to disabled students receiving a free appropriate public education.

I've heard many unfortunate opinions from people who feel money is being spent on special education at the expense of 'normal' students, frequently accompanied by the extremely appalling insinuation that educating 'those kids' is a waste of money anyway. I was also shocked at how much resentment is out there from parents who don't feel that their children should be 'forced' to have classes with special needs students.

The argument that special ed takes money away from other students makes frequent appearances in the briefs of school districts seeking to avoid paying for services sought by the parents of special education students. Its particularly infuriating in private school reimbursement cases, like this one, where the district could have just provided the necessary services itself, and avoided not only the cost of the private school, but also the cost of litigation. Thinking about a school district lawyer spending a 'billable hour' or two writing this argument out makes me feel like my head is going to explode.

UPDATE: I just looked at the NY times article, and its been edited, it now reads:In a decision that could help disabled students obtain needed services and cost school districts millions of dollars, the Supreme Court ruled on Monday that parents of special-education students may seek government reimbursement for private school tuition, even if they have never received special-education services in public school.(added text in bold)
That's certainly an improvement.

Fierwing
06-23-09, 12:37 AM
UPDATE: I just looked at the NY times article, and its been edited, it now reads:(added text in bold)
That's certainly an improvement.

That is an improvement, I'm glad to see it. Especially if the NY Times might have particular reason to focus on the cost. The Washington Post article, though.... just wow. I know I shouldn't keep being surprised by that kind of crap, but for some reason I keep expecting better. This:

Even though the boy had attended public schools from kindergarten to high school, no learning disability had been diagnosed (although his counselors discussed whether he had one), and thus he had never received special-education services.

- is the only thing the entire article mentions about the student's problems, subsequent diagnoses, or the school's refusal to provide services. But they spend three paragraphs detailing how much local districts spend on private school reimbursement... I wonder how far those millions could have gone in improving their special education services, had they made that their goal.

This idea that this case is about parents bypassing public schools so they can put their kids in expensive private schools is really outrageous. The school in this case declined to provide services, and then argued that its refusal to give this student services should protect it from having to pay for the services the parents were forced to obtain privately. The only school districts that this will help parents bypass are those that make themselves obstacles to disabled students receiving a free appropriate public education.

Yeah, I agree. I'm sure there are people out there who will try to abuse this option, but allowing school districts to get out of complying with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act simply by refusing to provide any help at all? That's a far worse abuse, in my opinion. I like the quote from Justice Stevens in this matter (although the NY Times is the only article I've seen include it):


“It would be strange for the act to provide a remedy, as all agree it does, where a school district offers a child inadequate special-education services but to leave parents without relief in the more egregious situation in which the school district unreasonably denies a child access to such services altogether.”

Its particularly infuriating in private school reimbursement cases, like this one, where the district could have just provided the necessary services itself, and avoided not only the cost of the private school, but also the cost of litigation. Thinking about a school district lawyer spending a 'billable hour' or two writing this argument out makes me feel like my head is going to explode.

This is incomprehensible. Even in the more balanced articles, it is all sympathy for the financial burden on the schools, and never any mention that it was actually their responsibility to have provided these services in the first place. Only when they fail, are they 'forced' to pay tuition reimbursement for an alternative arrangement. I realize that school districts all over are strapped for funds, and I understand what a struggle that can be. But as you point out, it is just irrational. How much more money is spent fighting and paying the reimbursements, than if they had just worked to make special education services adequate in the first place. And if providing sufficient services would actually be the more expensive option, well then, they don't really have anything to complain about.

And should anyone be looking for a reason to go to bed with very little faith that their fellow human beings are either decent or compassionate - just go check out the comments on USA Today's article (http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/judicial/2009-06-22-courtschools_N.htm?loc=interstitialskip). After all, ADHD is just what you label your children "instead of saying I didn't know how to be a parent," right? :mad:

Now I kind of feel like a jerk, though. You posted this as good news (and it is!) and I'm bringing down the thread. I'm promise to try to keep any future comments on this ruling as positive as possible.

APSJ
06-23-09, 10:36 AM
Yeah, I agree. I'm sure there are people out there who will try to abuse this option, but allowing school districts to get out of complying with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act simply by refusing to provide any help at all? That's a far worse abuse, in my opinion. I like the quote from Justice Stevens in this matter (although the NY Times is the only article I've seen include it):
“It would be strange for the act to provide a remedy, as all agree it does, where a school district offers a child inadequate special-education services but to leave parents without relief in the more egregious situation in which the school district unreasonably denies a child access to such services altogether.”Given the tenor of the coverage I'm not overly surprised that this hasn't been quoted in most of it. It captures one of the real distinctions between those supporting the respective sides in this case: those supporting the parents(and student) emphasize what happens when school's act in bad faith, while those who support the district emphasize what happens when parents act in bad faith.

Stories that cast the issue as whether parents can put their disabled children in private schools at public expense tacitly adopt the position of the district. Yes, this case says that a wealthy parent could put their kid directly in a private school and seek reimbursement. It does not say that they will always get that reimbursement:

[T]he District urges that respondent’s reading of the Act will impose a substantial financial burden on public school districts and encourage parents to immediately enroll their children in private school without first endeavoring to cooperate with the school district. The dissent echoes this concern. For several reasons, those fears are unfounded. Parents “are entitled to reimbursement only if a federal court concludes both that the public placement violated IDEA and the private school placement was proper under the Act.” Carter, 510 U. S., at 15. And even then courts retain discretion to reduce the amount of a reimbursement award if the equities so warrant—for instance, if the parents failed to give the school district adequate notice of their intent to enroll the child in private school. In considering the equities, courts should generally presume that public-school officials are properly performing their obligations under IDEA. See Schaffer v. Weast, 546 U. S. 49, 62–63 (2005) (STEVENS, J., concurring). As a result of these criteria and the fact that parents who “‘unilaterally change their child’s placement during the pendency of review proceedings, without the consent of state or local school officials, do so at their own financial risk,’” Carter, 510 U. S., at 15 (quoting Burlington, 471 U. S., at 373–374), the incidence of private-school placement at public expense is quite small, see Brief for National Disability Rights Network et al. as Amici Curiae 13–14.
http://www.supremecourtus.gov/opinions/08slipopinion.html

Of course, if school districts act in bad faith, had this decision come out the other way, there would be no down side. Denial of services in all cases would have been the best financial option. Many parents simply would not have the wherewithal to fight the decision. For those that did, the worst that would happen to the District is that they'd have to start providing services when they lost, and possibly provide some compensatory education.

All this decision has done is deny that Congress created a ridiculous loophole in the IDEA. Wealthy parents who want their kids in private schools can misuse the act even if their kids are classified as special ed by the district, by pulling them from public special ed. programs and putting them in private ones, and asserting that the public program was inadequate. So, this did not create a new problem, and had it gone the other way, would not have prevented abuse of the system by parents, just facilitated abuse by school districts.

This is incomprehensible. Even in the more balanced articles, it is all sympathy for the financial burden on the schools, and never any mention that it was actually their responsibility to have provided these services in the first place. Only when they fail, are they 'forced' to pay tuition reimbursement for an alternative arrangement. I realize that school districts all over are strapped for funds, and I understand what a struggle that can be. But as you point out, it is just irrational. How much more money is spent fighting and paying the reimbursements, than if they had just worked to make special education services adequate in the first place. And if providing sufficient services would actually be the more expensive option, well then, they don't really have anything to complain about.

You've touched here on what I think is one of the biggest problem with the discourse on parent-district special education disputes. Its often discussed, in news articles, school district briefs, and even many court decisions, as whether, in the abstract, its fair to make the district spend X amount of money on a given student. In most cases, by the time a case is at the point where we're reading about it, its already been established that the District had been legally obligated to provide the services to the student, and had failed to meet that obligation. In other words, that it broke the law. It is not a case about education policy at that point, it is a case about what a wrongdoer should have to do to compensate the student whose rights were violated. Arguments about the fairness of the financial burden if all things were equal are disingenuous in this situation.

One thing about this case which might slant the coverage in the direction of the district is that its about private school reimbursement. As a consequence, states, municipalities, school districts, and teacher organizations were in support of the district, as the parents position is perceived as diverting funds from public schools to private ones.

And should anyone be looking for a reason to go to bed with very little faith that their fellow human beings are either decent or compassionate - just go check out the comments on USA Today's article (http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/judicial/2009-06-22-courtschools_N.htm?loc=interstitialskip). After all, ADHD is just what you label your children "instead of saying I didn't know how to be a parent," right? :mad:

Now I kind of feel like a jerk, though. You posted this as good news (and it is!) and I'm bringing down the thread. I'm promise to try to keep any future comments on this ruling as positive as possible.

There are now a few comments on there that are more positive, including some parents who are encouraged by it. For some reason USA Today seems to be only place where there are a lot of comments about this, which is disappointing.

Don't worry about bringing down the thread, I'm glad you responded and gave me an excuse to discuss it further, particularly since the response elsewhere on the web is so tepid. I also wonder if the change to the Times article was the result of someone checking the reaction on sites linking to it. It may be a stretch, but who knows?

There are some comments I've found which are a bit more concerning than the ill-considered USA Today comments:

Lindsay E. Jones, the senior director for policy and advocacy for the Council for Exceptional Children, a Reston, Va.-based professional organization of educators who work with students with special needs, echoed this concern.

“We feel it undermines the collaborative intent and spirit and structure of IDEA,” she said of the ruling. “It allows parents to bypass the special education process altogether.”

Francisco Negron, the general counsel of the Alexandria, Va.-based National School Boards Association, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting the Oregon district, said his organization was disappointed by the ruling and may turn to Congress for a remedy.
“The question for us now is whether we seek a legislative fix,” he said, to make clear that a family may not seek reimbursement for unilaterally placing a child in private school to get special education services without first receiving such services from a district.
http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2009/06/22/36scotusspecialed.h28.html

The Council for Exceptional Children response is really disappointing, if not entirely unsurprising given who it represents, because its an organization which is generally a force for good, and really pushes for adequate resources to be allocated to special education programs, and for the needs of students with disabilities to be better understood.

The comment regarding a 'legislative fix' to overturn the decision is troubling, particularly if public opinion is shaped by articles like the one in the Washington Post, and the issue becomes one about schools struggling in this economy being crushed by the cost of these private schools.

One reason to hope that Mr. Negron's legislation (which I'll call the "IDEA Loophole Restoration Act") would be unsuccessful, however, is that one of the briefs filed in support of the parents in this case came from the United States(i.e. the Obama administration).

Dizfriz
06-24-09, 02:23 PM
While I too am concerned about some aspects of the ruling, I feel there is an important point for those in the forum to focus on.

Since the child was specifically ADHD, this ruling could have a major effect on school districts that try to deny appropriate aid for kids with the disorder.

The LA Times had a good article on the ruling.
http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-court-disabilities23-2009jun23,0,3890868.story

One interesting statement was
"All this decision establishes is that if the school district falls down on the job, the parents are not precluded from seeking a reimbursement," said Terri Keville, a lawyer for the Disability Rights Legal Center in Los Angeles.

It is going to be much riskier for a school district to stonewall the parents on helping an ADHD student. I suspect that now districts will be forced to think more carefully about how they deal with these kids.

If not, show them a copy of the ruling with cost figures highlighted.

Any help or ammo we can get is good and this does bode well for getting better educational help for an ADHD child.

More data will be coming forth in the next few days. Inquiring minds are, in this case, quite interested.

Dizfriz

APSJ
06-24-09, 06:10 PM
Since the child was specifically ADHD, this ruling could have a major effect on school districts that try to deny appropriate aid for kids with the disorder.

I do hope that this ruling will put school districts on notice of the potential financial consequences of taking an ADHD diagnoses lightly, but its important to note that the decision itself will not have any ADHD-specific legal consequences.

The decision was limited to this narrow issue:

The LA Times had a good article on the ruling.
http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-court-disabilities23-2009jun23,0,3890868.story

One interesting statement was
"All this decision establishes is that if the school district falls down on the job, the parents are not precluded from seeking a reimbursement," said Terri Keville, a lawyer for the Disability Rights Legal Center in Los Angeles.


For some reason, the district in this case did not appeal the hearing officer's determination that the student was entitled to special education, only the hearing officer's ability to award reimbursement where the student had not previously received special education from a public school district.

The LA Times article seems more balanced than most I've seen, but it does mischaracterizes the decision somewhat. For example:
The National School Boards Assn. and other education groups had urged the high court to deny the right to a reimbursement to parents who acted on their own and enrolled a child in a private school. The justices refused to do so because, in this case at least, the fault appeared to lie with the school district.(italics mine)

The Court did not make any determination as to fault. Its ruling that the parents may seek reimbursement was not a ruling that the hearing officer's analysis of the student's eligibility was correct, only that since that determination had been made, the parents could seek reimbursement, even though their child had not previously received special ed. from the district.

There is an interesting article on what this case says about the legal philosophy of the more recently appointed justices, along with a good explanation of the legal issue that was in question at Edjurist (http://www.edjurist.com/blog/learning-about-roberts-and-alito-forest-grove-school-distric.html)

Dizfriz
06-25-09, 08:52 AM
I do hope that this ruling will put school districts on notice of the potential financial consequences of taking an ADHD diagnoses lightly, but its important to note that the decision itself will not have any ADHD-specific legal consequences.

I agree but since the child was specifically described as ADHD and that was accepted as the disability in question, school districts will now be more likely to view not helping an ADHD child as putting themselves in jeopardy. That is my focus.

To take the stance, as I have seen some do, that they can simply ignore ADHD and/or put up so many hurdles that parents simply give up is now less likely to be seen as a viable strategy and may indeed be viewed as demonstrably expensive. This bodes well for parents fighting to get help for their ADHD child and I suspect that after this they may see a more cooperative attitude from the schools. Fear is a good motivator.

There are a number of aspects of this decision that will be hashed out in the coming weeks before we can get an good understanding of the effects and impact. It will be interesting to watch.

Oh yes, I liked the Edjurist article. Thanks for posting it.

Dizfriz

Fierwing
06-27-09, 01:04 AM
One thing about this case which might slant the coverage in the direction of the district is that its about private school reimbursement. As a consequence, states, municipalities, school districts, and teacher organizations were in support of the district, as the parents position is perceived as diverting funds from public schools to private ones.

There are now a few comments on there that are more positive, including some parents who are encouraged by it. For some reason USA Today seems to be only place where there are a lot of comments about this, which is disappointing.

Thanks for posting the link to the Edjurist article. It was helpful to read such a clear discussion of the case.

I do wish you hadn't replied directly to my comment about the USA Today article though, since it prompted me to go read through the comment section again. Nope, hasn't improved my overall view of humanity any.

I also wonder if the change to the Times article was the result of someone checking the reaction on sites linking to it. It may be a stretch, but who knows?

That was my thought as well, or that someone made a very convincing complaint directly to the Times. May have just been a change made in the usual course of editing though, as I noticed that the article was being printed in the next day's paper.

Yes, this case says that a wealthy parent could put their kid directly in a private school and seek reimbursement. It does not say that they will always get that reimbursement:

An important point, and one that is almost unanimously overlooked. It's not like blanket permission has been granted for any parent to change schools just because they wanted to and still be owed reimbursement. It still has to be determined that help is neccessary, and that the public school failed to provide it.

The comment regarding a 'legislative fix' to overturn the decision is troubling, particularly if public opinion is shaped by articles like the one in the Washington Post, and the issue becomes one about schools struggling in this economy being crushed by the cost of these private schools.

One reason to hope that Mr. Negron's legislation (which I'll call the "IDEA Loophole Restoration Act") would be unsuccessful, however, is that one of the briefs filed in support of the parents in this case came from the United States(i.e. the Obama administration).

This struck me as ominous when I first read it. My hope would be though (and I don't know if it's a foolish one) that even if an 'IDEA Loophole Restoration Act' did go into effect, it would close the 'loophole' in both directions. Parents could not seek reimbursement without first trying to get help through the public option, but also that the district saying that help is not appropriate despite evidence otherwise could not protect them from their obligation.

While I too am concerned about some aspects of the ruling, I feel there is an important point for those in the forum to focus on.

Since the child was specifically ADHD, this ruling could have a major effect on school districts that try to deny appropriate aid for kids with the disorder.

I know it doesn't seem like it, given my thoughts on the rest of the thread, but I actually feel a lot more positive about this ruling than anything else. The only exception is the way that much of the general public and media have reacted - both to special education in general and ADHD in particular, but it's not like that's anything new or surprising. Frankly, if I could only have one on my side, I would pick the law over the public anyway. (Although, yes, I realize that enough force of public opinion could potentially change the law.)

I think it's great that support for special education has been shown by both the Supreme Court and the White House here, and I'm delighted that there may be one less obstacle standing in the way of getting help for children who need it. You are right, and we won't probably know what this all really means for some time, but I'm pretty hopeful about it.

Fierwing
06-27-09, 02:01 AM
Fair warning - This one is purely rant

You've touched here on what I think is one of the biggest problem with the discourse on parent-district special education disputes. Its often discussed, in news articles, school district briefs, and even many court decisions, as whether, in the abstract, its fair to make the district spend X amount of money on a given student. In most cases, by the time a case is at the point where we're reading about it, its already been established that the District had been legally obligated to provide the services to the student, and had failed to meet that obligation. In other words, that it broke the law. It is not a case about education policy at that point, it is a case about what a wrongdoer should have to do to compensate the student whose rights were violated. Arguments about the fairness of the financial burden if all things were equal are disingenuous in this situation.

Fairness is a theme that seems to be brought up over and over with regards to special education - "It's not fair that the the district spends more money on a special education student than a regular one." "It's not fair that my tax money is going to pay for your child's education." - And it, frankly, strikes me as a ridiculous thing for adults to be discussing. Things aren't fair, if they were, there wouldn't be a need for special education in the first place.

The decision about whether or not to educate students who need help isn't about fairness. It's more about people's right to equal opportunity and what a government-funded school system is legally required to provide in that regard. Sure, on paper it might make sense to say that money spent on a few special needs students would do more good being spread among the many more 'normal' students. Supposedly though, the rights of minorities here are protected from being subjugated at the will or 'for the good' of the majority.

People get caught up thinking that 'equal rights' or 'equal opportunities' means that everything must be equal. 'If you spend $1500 educating child A, then you must spend $1500 educating child B, no more, no less.' Reality may dictate that it will only cost $1500 to provide child A with an appropriate education but $3000 for child B, that doesn't make it unequal or unfair - at least, not in any way that matters. It probably costs more to add a handicapped accessible entrance to a building, that doesn't mean you're required to spend the same amount on the other entrance, simply in the interest of being fair.

(I'm choosing to completely ignore the question of whether or not our current school system is actually able to provide an appropriate education for anyone.)

APSJ
06-29-09, 03:56 AM
I do wish you hadn't replied directly to my comment about the USA Today article though, since it prompted me to go read through the comment section again. Nope, hasn't improved my overall view of humanity any.

Frankly, if I could only have one on my side, I would pick the law over the public anyway. (Although, yes, I realize that enough force of public opinion could potentially change the law.)

Having worked in this area some, and watched this case for months, I have to admit that on some level I don't really find the types of remarks that seem to have dominated the USA Today comment section troubling. I know its a real problem that people feel this way, and having to contend with this view is just another obstacle for students with disabilities and their parents. But, these views weren't created by this decision, and while it would have been nice if it swayed people in the other direction, the outcry feels like further confirmation of the fact that they unambiguously lost this round. As you said, the law wins out over public opinion here. They've been winning for a while, so its nice to be on the other side for a change. I just hope its not an aberration.

This struck me as ominous when I first read it. My hope would be though (and I don't know if it's a foolish one) that even if an 'IDEA Loophole Restoration Act' did go into effect, it would close the 'loophole' in both directions. Parents could not seek reimbursement without first trying to get help through the public option, but also that the district saying that help is not appropriate despite evidence otherwise could not protect them from their obligation.

That's a good point. It seems unlikely that they could pass a bill that would explicitly allow districts to dodge their obligations by refusing all services. I still feel like any legislation to address this would be putting more hurdles in front of parents trying to get their kids a decent education, but it probably wouldn't be as bad as if this case had gone the other way.


People get caught up thinking that 'equal rights' or 'equal opportunities' means that everything must be equal. 'If you spend $1500 educating child A, then you must spend $1500 educating child B, no more, no less.' Reality may dictate that it will only cost $1500 to provide child A with an appropriate education but $3000 for child B, that doesn't make it unequal or unfair - at least, not in any way that matters. It probably costs more to add a handicapped accessible entrance to a building, that doesn't mean you're required to spend the same amount on the other entrance, simply in the interest of being fair.


It is interesting that people get caught up thinking that 'equal' should mean 'identical' in the context of special education, but have no trouble grasping the distinction in other contexts. No one would think 'equal' medical care would mean if one person gets a kidney transplant everyone should.

I also wonder why the argument is always that disabled kids shouldn't get individualized educational services, rather than that all students should have an education tailored to their unique needs. If someone thinks their kids aren't getting a good education because the money is going to special ed, why don't they focus on getting a good education for their kid rather than on taking it away from the special ed kids? I know the argument is that there's not enough money to go around, but given the state of the law, getting more money should, at least theoretically, be a lot easier than getting rid of special ed.

Annwn
06-29-09, 01:24 PM
Fair warning - This one is purely rant



Fairness is a theme that seems to be brought up over and over with regards to special education - "It's not fair that the the district spends more money on a special education student than a regular one." "It's not fair that my tax money is going to pay for your child's education." - And it, frankly, strikes me as a ridiculous thing for adults to be discussing. Things aren't fair, if they were, there wouldn't be a need for special education in the first place.

The decision about whether or not to educate students who need help isn't about fairness. It's more about people's right to equal opportunity and what a government-funded school system is legally required to provide in that regard. Sure, on paper it might make sense to say that money spent on a few special needs students would do more good being spread among the many more 'normal' students. Supposedly though, the rights of minorities here are protected from being subjugated at the will or 'for the good' of the majority.

People get caught up thinking that 'equal rights' or 'equal opportunities' means that everything must be equal. 'If you spend $1500 educating child A, then you must spend $1500 educating child B, no more, no less.' Reality may dictate that it will only cost $1500 to provide child A with an appropriate education but $3000 for child B, that doesn't make it unequal or unfair - at least, not in any way that matters. It probably costs more to add a handicapped accessible entrance to a building, that doesn't mean you're required to spend the same amount on the other entrance, simply in the interest of being fair.

(I'm choosing to completely ignore the question of whether or not our current school system is actually able to provide an appropriate education for anyone.)

The fairness argument falls down when you try to apply it to other areas such as police and fire protection. Should everyone only get $1000 worth of police or fire department "attention" per year?

Would anyone say "hey, my neighbors house caught on fire and he got $10,000 worth of fire department services and they have not even asked me if I had a cat stuck in a tree!"

Would someone complain that their neighbors house was broken into and the police spent a lot of time and money investigating while at the same time, they "got nothing"?

Putting out fires, fighting crime and making sure as many people as possible receive a proper education are all activities that require an uneven application of resources but result in a net benefit for everyone even when there is not a direct benefit.

APSJ
06-29-09, 02:14 PM
Putting out fires, fighting crime and making sure as many people as possible receive a proper education are all activities that require an uneven application of resources but result in a net benefit for everyone even when there is not a direct benefit.

This is another good point. Even from a purely economic perspective, it makes sense to spend what it takes to make people as capable of being self-sufficient as possible. If you think a few years in a private special ed school is expensive, wait till you hear how much a lifetime of disability, or perhaps prison, will cost. Education, of all kinds, readily pays for itself.

Fierwing
06-29-09, 06:51 PM
Having worked in this area some, and watched this case for months, I have to admit that on some level I don't really find the types of remarks that seem to have dominated the USA Today comment section troubling. I know its a real problem that people feel this way, and having to contend with this view is just another obstacle for students with disabilities and their parents. But, these views weren't created by this decision, […]

Well, I don’t find it troubling in that I think the people saying such things are going to get their way, or are doing substantial damage - it just makes me angry. Since crushing them out of existence with the sheer force of my dislike didn’t seem to be working, I settled for coming here and complaining instead. (One of these days though…) And I realize that it isn’t anything new. It’s only that most days I’m smart enough not to go looking for things that will frustrate me.

[…]and while it would have been nice if it swayed people in the other direction, the outcry feels like further confirmation of the fact that they unambiguously lost this round. As you said, the law wins out over public opinion here. They've been winning for a while, so its nice to be on the other side for a change. I just hope its not an aberration.

Great point. The losers in this case are probably the ones making the most noise about it. - Thanks for that reminder.

It is interesting that people get caught up thinking that 'equal' should mean 'identical' in the context of special education, but have no trouble grasping the distinction in other contexts.

(Yes! - Identical - I swear, I spent 20 minutes staring at my computer screen and clicking through an online thesaurus trying to put my finger on that word.)

No one would think 'equal' medical care would mean if one person gets a kidney transplant everyone should.

The fairness argument falls down when you try to apply it to other areas such as police and fire protection. Should everyone only get $1000 worth of police or fire department "attention" per year?

Would anyone say "hey, my neighbors house caught on fire and he got $10,000 worth of fire department services and they have not even asked me if I had a cat stuck in a tree!"

Would someone complain that their neighbors house was broken into and the police spent a lot of time and money investigating while at the same time, they "got nothing"?

This is exactly what I was getting at. Public education, no matter the skills or the potential of the student, belongs in this category. Education doesn’t automatically change into a welfare program once a certain amount of money is spent.

Really though, I can kind of comprehend how discussions about education get so out of hand, where ones about things like healthcare and emergency services do not. Some normally, perfectly reasonable parents do get irrational when it comes to children. You run into blind spots the size of elephants and all kinds of justifications for otherwise inexcusable behavior when someone believes that they are looking out for the best interests of their child. (Not everyone, not all the time! Just saying, there’s a lot of it out there.) I, personally, don’t agree that that’s a good enough excuse to run around acting like an ignorant ***** in public, but I do understand why such controversy, which would never even be contemplated in other, comparable situations, might spring up around this.

I also wonder why the argument is always that disabled kids shouldn't get individualized educational services, rather than that all students should have an education tailored to their unique needs. If someone thinks their kids aren't getting a good education because the money is going to special ed, why don't they focus on getting a good education for their kid rather than on taking it away from the special ed kids? I know the argument is that there's not enough money to go around, but given the state of the law, getting more money should, at least theoretically, be a lot easier than getting rid of special ed.

I don’t know… It’s easier if no one is allowed to get ahead than to have to put effort into improvement on your own? It’s pretty hard to believe that the current one-size-fits-all curriculum is the best possible solution for most students, that might be a much more productive focus for unhappiness with the education system. And it seems there’s usually enough money for the things that are most important – you just have to figure out how to make what’s important to you into what’s important to those who decide such things.

This is another good point. Even from a purely economic perspective, it makes sense to spend what it takes to make people as capable of being self-sufficient as possible. If you think a few years in a private special ed school is expensive, wait till you hear how much a lifetime of disability, or perhaps prison, will cost. Education, of all kinds, readily pays for itself.

This makes sense to me, especially when you go looking up the average yearly cost for things like keeping someone incarcerated. I was searching for any research or discussion of special education outcomes which would impact an individual’s life long cost (or benefit) to society a few days ago though, and didn’t really find much. Do you know of anything relevant?

APSJ
06-30-09, 03:56 PM
Well, I don’t find it troubling in that I think the people saying such things are going to get their way, or are doing substantial damage - it just makes me angry. Since crushing them out of existence with the sheer force of my dislike didn’t seem to be working, I settled for coming here and complaining instead. (One of these days though…)

In my last post, I was really struggling to explain why they didn't bother me without using the word 'gloat' but I think it might provide clarity, so there it is. Its pretty much worn off now, and I'm becoming more and more irritated by the level of ignorance some of the responses show, particular those that are put forth in articles, as these would seem to engender further ignorance among the general public, and the comments section crowd.

Here (http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/06/28/INPN18CAA3.DTL&type=education) is the most egregious example I've found, with a correspondingly awful comments section, where both the author, and the sources she quotes, either didn't bother to read the case, or intentionally mischaracterize the ruling as actually ordering the payment, rather than authorizing the parents to seek it, and sending the case back to the lower court to decide whether they'll get it.

most days I’m smart enough not to go looking for things that will frustrate me.

I'm happy to save you the trouble by bringing such things directly to your attention. :D Feel free not to click on the link above.


Great point. The losers in this case are probably the ones making the most noise about it. - Thanks for that reminder.
What I find particularly gratifying is the complaints from school district representatives about how much this will cost them. I predict that if this decision stands for a while, we will see markedly increased spending on special ed, but it will not be overly concentrated in private school payments.(although there will no doubt be spike in this area) Instead, hopefully, the districts will avoid these payments by actually providing a FAPE themselves. If I'm right, they'll have a hard time complaining about the increased spending, as all they'll be doing is what they've been legally obligated to do all along.

This is exactly what I was getting at. Public education, no matter the skills or the potential of the student, belongs in this category. Education doesn’t automatically change into a welfare program once a certain amount of money is spent.

I tend to think that people who put a lot of thought into, and publish, critiques of special education with the 'why do they get preferential treatment' argument, are likely not fans of public education generally. If you believe its unfair for more of your tax dollars to go to someone else's special ed kid than to your own, it would seem to follow that its unfair for people who don't have kids to have their taxes go to education at all. After all, non-parents should be entitled to have equal(identical) resources spent on them.

Some normally, perfectly reasonable parents do get irrational when it comes to children. You run into blind spots the size of elephants and all kinds of justifications for otherwise inexcusable behavior when someone believes that they are looking out for the best interests of their child. (Not everyone, not all the time! Just saying, there’s a lot of it out there.)
That's very true. Thinking about it this way I feel bad for being so dismissive of the critics earlier. I can sympathize with parents of a struggling general ed student in a poor district getting frustrated and angry that their child isn't getting any help while other students are being provided computers, personal aides, etc. at the school's expense by virtue of being eligible for special ed. (Of course, a lot of the complainers either aren't parents, or wouldn't have any trouble providing an education to their kids on their own.)

I feel like in a sense, the fact that in the U.S. we don't have any federal law(at least that I'm aware of) dictating the nature or quality of education children are entitled to generally, is the 'elephant in the room' in any discussion of special education policy. The assumption behind this is that general ed students are adequately educated in regular classrooms without extra services, but there's no law behind this assumption, and its very far from being universally true.

I don’t know… It’s easier if no one is allowed to get ahead than to have to put effort into improvement on your own? It’s pretty hard to believe that the current one-size-fits-all curriculum is the best possible solution for most students, that might be a much more productive focus for unhappiness with the education system. And it seems there’s usually enough money for the things that are most important – you just have to figure out how to make what’s important to you into what’s important to those who decide such things.
This makes sense. Its harder to figure out exactly what your kid needs to fix his problems than to point out that another kids' problems are being addressed while his aren't.

I would imagine that if someone really thought their child would benefit from something that was made available to special ed kids, but their child clearly couldn't qualify for special ed, many schools, depending on what it was, might provide it if approached the right way, and persistently. My fiance is a teacher, and from what she's told me, it does seem that parents who make their specific wishes known regularly and forcefully are more likely to have them met than those who are passive, or who complain about the school in a general sense.

This makes sense to me, especially when you go looking up the average yearly cost for things like keeping someone incarcerated. I was searching for any research or discussion of special education outcomes which would impact an individual’s life long cost (or benefit) to society a few days ago though, and didn’t really find much. Do you know of anything relevant?

I researched this issue about a year ago, and at that time I couldn't find anything specific to special ed. However, I think its fair to extrapolate from studies of the effects of improved general ed., and these do exist.

One, which I'm not sure is available online, found that a 1% increase in the male high-school graduation rate in the United States, would save the country 1.4 billion dollars due to the reduction in crime that would follow.
This is the article: Lance Lochner & Enrico Moretti, The Effect of Education on Crime: Evidence from Prison Inmates, Arrests, and Self-Reports, 94 Am. Econ. Rev. 155, 157 (2004).

Another (http://www.ncsl.org/IssuesResearch/HumanServices/NewResearchEarlyEducationasEconomicInvestme/tabid/16436/Default.aspx) found that for every dollar spent on early education yields an eight dollar benefit to the general public.

I see no reason why these wouldn't apply to special education spending, especially since there are other studies(which I don't have on hand) indicating that some special ed kids are more likely to have life-outcomes that are very costly to the public(not to mention themselves).

Fierwing
07-03-09, 04:06 PM
In my last post, I was really struggling to explain why they didn't bother me without using the word 'gloat' but I think it might provide clarity, so there it is. Its pretty much worn off now, and I'm becoming more and more irritated by the level of ignorance some of the responses show, particular those that are put forth in articles, as these would seem to engender further ignorance among the general public, and the comments section crowd.

No, no... 'gloat' came through clearly, even if you refrained from saying it outright. It actually made me feel much better. :D

I'm happy to save you the trouble by bringing such things directly to your attention. :D Feel free not to click on the link above.

Not funny. Might as well have installed a flashing sign that said 'LOOK HERE RIGHT NOW!'

This is so misleading, and just outright wrong. I kept scrolling back up to the top of the article to make sure it wasn't actually posted in the opinion or editorial section. Neat trick - quote a lot of people who are wrong, and then you haven't technically misrepresented anything in your article.

I tend to think that people who put a lot of thought into, and publish, critiques of special education with the 'why do they get preferential treatment' argument, are likely not fans of public education generally. If you believe its unfair for more of your tax dollars to go to someone else's special ed kid than to your own, it would seem to follow that its unfair for people who don't have kids to have their taxes go to education at all. After all, non-parents should be entitled to have equal(identical) resources spent on them.

I imagine you're right, although I haven't read many criticisms of special ed that the author appears to have "put a lot of thought into," or published, mostly just comments on news articles. (I'm sure it's out there, I'm just not familiar.)

That's very true. Thinking about it this way I feel bad for being so dismissive of the critics earlier. I can sympathize with parents of a struggling general ed student in a poor district getting frustrated and angry that their child isn't getting any help while other students are being provided computers, personal aides, etc. at the school's expense by virtue of being eligible for special ed. (Of course, a lot of the complainers either aren't parents, or wouldn't have any trouble providing an education to their kids on their own.)

Although I have a huge amount of sympathy for any parent who's child is being overlooked by the educational system, most of it disappears as soon as they choose to address the problem by trying to marginalize or tear down another group of students who need help just as badly. Especially those who go about it by insulting or diminishing people with mental disorders in general or expressing skepticism that such things even exist. If they chose to rail against the problem below instead, I would be behind them 100%.

The assumption behind this is that general ed students are adequately educated in regular classrooms without extra services, but there's no law behind this assumption, and its very far from being universally true.

I researched this issue about a year ago, and at that time I couldn't find anything specific to special ed. However, I think its fair to extrapolate from studies of the effects of improved general ed., and these do exist.

I see no reason why these wouldn't apply to special education spending, especially since there are other studies(which I don't have on hand) indicating that some special ed kids are more likely to have life-outcomes that are very costly to the public(not to mention themselves).

Thanks very much for posting those! That really was more or less what I had in mind, although it would be nice to see something specific to special education done.

APSJ
07-05-09, 04:00 PM
No, no... 'gloat' came through clearly, even if you refrained from saying it outright. It actually made me feel much better. :D
And here I thought I'd successfully obfuscated that fact with my rationalish sounding description of my gloating. :D Oh well. I'm glad it made you feel better.
Not funny. Might as well have installed a flashing sign that said 'LOOK HERE RIGHT NOW!'
I imagine you're right, although I haven't read many criticisms of special ed that the author appears to have "put a lot of thought into," or published, mostly just comments on news articles. (I'm sure it's out there, I'm just not familiar.)
They're out there, but I'll do you the courtesy of resisting my impulse to post links to any of them, as much as I enjoy ranting about these things.

I want to be clear that when I said people put a lot of thought into them, I didn't mean to imply that the articles themselves were well-thought out, or well-reasoned. Most of them are just somewhat toned down, more detailed, and longer, variations on the themes in the last article I posted.

Although I have a huge amount of sympathy for any parent who's child is being overlooked by the educational system, most of it disappears as soon as they choose to address the problem by trying to marginalize or tear down another group of students who need help just as badly. Especially those who go about it by insulting or diminishing people with mental disorders in general or expressing skepticism that such things even exist. If they chose to rail against the problem below instead, I would be behind them 100%.

Well put. I think there has to be a point where these kinds of arguments, whatever the motivation behind them, move beyond the bounds of legitimate parental concern and become hateful. I think at that point, sympathy and understanding about the origins of the arguments can appropriately give way to the necessity of responding to the arguments for what they are.