Wealthy Seek Special-Ed Cash

Barbara Martinez:

Families in the most affluent New York City school districts, including the Upper East and Upper West sides, file more claims than other parts of the city seeking reimbursement of their children’s private-school tuition, according to Department of Education data.
The department last year spent $116 million in tuition and legal expenses to cover special-education students whose parents sued the DOE alleging that their public-school options were not appropriate. The number is more than double three years ago, and the costs are expected to continue to rise.
Parents have been helped by a series of U.S. Supreme Court decisions that strengthened their legal position to sue school districts. The most recent case was last summer.
“No one begrudges parents the right to send their children to private school,” said Michael Best, general counsel at the DOE. “But this system was not intended as a way for private school parents to get the taxpayers to fund their children’s tuition.”

4 thoughts on “Wealthy Seek Special-Ed Cash”

  1. This is the sort of thing I wonder and worry about in the MMSD. And why I would like to see special education expenditures analyzed by race and especially social class. It troubles me to think that within a group of students with the same type and level of disability, more district money is being spent on the wealthier white kids because their parents have the time, savvy and clout to advocate for them.

  2. I think you’d be surprised at how your questions might be answered. Wealthier white kids with disabilities get into the therapeutic system at earlier ages, typically have better insurance, and those savvy parents get more services before they enter the MMSD, which means the MMSD spends less on those students. OTOH, the poor and/or minority students don’t get diagnosed, in many cases, until they matriculate into the MMSD. There’s also evidence that minority students are over-identified. Couple that with the fact these minority and/or poor students’ parents can’t afford outside interventions and I think you’ll find expenditures favoring those who are truly in need.
    Samuel Adams
    Brewer, Patriot

  3. Well, it’s an empirical question that rather easy to answer…should the District want to find out. All they have to do is look to see whether one group of students, e.g., free and reduced lunch have more or less spent per student than the other group. You could even look within type of disability and that would control for any group differences in severity of impairment.

  4. Good points, Jeff.
    I know from personal family experience my sister has spent considerable time and resources dedicated to accessing the spectrum of resources needed for my niece, who is mentally disabled. She, her husband and our family have done this since my niece was less than one year old. Without their advocacy, I absolutely know her options would have been different and more limiting.
    In MMSD, I know the School Board looked at this issue a number of years ago. I don’t know how it is followed; but, with limited financial resources, it is an equity issue.

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