The amazing industry that has sprung up to advance parents’ demands that schools accommodate their “learning-disabled” offspring is an old story around these parts (see here and here, for example). Even so, the San Francisco Chronicle’s recent investigative report can provoke a gasp:
* Even though federal, state and other sources already spend more than $4 billion a year to subsidize the provision of special education in the state of California, school districts in the state still shift more than a billion dollars out of their regular school budgets to pay for accommodation demands that include “private day schools, boarding schools, summer camps, aqua therapy, horseback therapy, travel costs, personal aides” and dolphin therapy.
* Administrators at Woodside High on the Peninsula offered a 15-year-old with learning disabilities and anxiety “daily help from a special education expert” as well as “a laptop computer, extra time for tests — and an advocate to smooth any ripples with teachers. If an anxiety attack came on, he could step out of class.” Not good enough for his parents, who decided to send him to a $30,000/year private school in Maine. Their lawyer demanded that the district pay not only the tuition but also for the whole family’s repeated cross-country travel costs to visit him there.
* Schools routinely buckle under to demands they regard as unreasonable, not only to avoid the expense of litigation but because the law tilts against them; a single procedural misstep in the hugely complicated process can leave them liable for damages and hefty legal fees. Since secret settlements are common, taxpayers may find it hard to grasp the extent of the monetary hemorrhaging.
* “It’s a blank check,” said [Paul] Goldfinger, vice president of School Services. “The system is stacked so that one segment of the population — disabled children — has first call on funding, and the others get whatever’s left.”