Last week the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that the parents of an Oregon student diagnosed with ADHD and other problems could send him to an expensive private school and bill the government for the cost, even if he had not previously been enrolled in a public school special education program. San Francisco Chronicle columnist Debra Saunders discusses the case and quotes me on a couple of points:
Walter Olson of overlawyered.com nailed the problem with the majority ruling when he opined in an e-mail, “The impulse to get a better shake for one’s kid is universal, but it’s disproportionately wealthy and clever parents, with their hired lawyers and experts, who succeed in using these rules to obtain a private school education at public expense. In this case, the question was whether parents should at least try the public schools’ proffer of special-ed services before declaring them inadequate, which doesn’t seem to me to be too much to ask.” …
Noting that Souter’s dissent was joined by conservative Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, Olson noted, “I’m still trying to figure out why being progressive on this issue means siding with the private schools and affluent parents, while the conservative justices are the ones to defend the public school ideal of universal service.”
Saunders also quotes my distinguished Manhattan Institute colleague Jay Greene, who takes a different view. It’s worth noting, by the way, that parents of non-disabled students continue to have no right at all to obtain reimbursement for private alternatives should they decide the public schools are failing their kids. More: Tamar Lewin, New York Times; Zach Lowe, American Lawyer.