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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Special Ed in NYC

The NY Daily News reports:

The city Department of Education spent $140 million last year on private school tuition for more than 3,000 special-education pupils - most of them from the city's wealthiest neighborhoods.

Such tuition payments for children with dyslexia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and autism have increased fourfold since 2005, school officials say, and the cost could approach $200 million by next year.

Taxpayers support up to 80% of pupils at some private schools, where headmasters pull down huge salaries.

Meanwhile, children of low-income and working-class parents remain stuck in underfunded and sometimes chaotic special-education programs in regular public schools.

In August, The Wall Street Journal reported:

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."

Parents, for example, are supposed to give the DOE an opportunity to provide the schooling before they go on to a private school and seek reimbursement. But in New York City, about half the claims are ones in which "the kid never went to public school," said Mr. Best.