My personal musings about anything that gets on my radar screen--heavily dominated by politics.


And People Wonder Why School Administrators Are The Way They Are

The Thompson School District must reimburse a Berthoud family more than $200,000 spent since January 2004 for a son to attend a private Massachusetts school for the autistic because the district's educational plan failed to meet his needs, a state hearing officer has ruled.

I'm sorry . . . sphinctersayswhat? (sorry--channeling Wayne's World there for a moment). $200k?!? For one child to go to school in Massachusetts?!? Roughly the equivalent of the spending for 225 children, for one child to go to school in Mass?!?

This is a head-scratcher, for sure.

Federal Law requires that all children identified as "special needs" must be given access to "a free appropriate public education." And there is no doubt that the cost of said education is more than it is for "non-special" children. . .

[As an aside, do you see part of the problem? In that last paragraph I had to stop and think about my choice of words three times, and still probably made some advocacy group upset. If we're not even allowed to talk about these children in normal language, how can we possibly educate them?]

but how can we possibly justify taking the resources of 225 children and devoting them to one child?

Last year, Colorado served 83,407 special-education students as of December, and in the 2002-03 school year, Colorado spent $567 million to fund special education, according to the latest figures from the Colorado Department of Education. . .

State and federal dollars cover part of that cost, but local districts bear 70 percent of it.

When Congress enacted the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act in 1975, the goal was to reimburse states for 40 percent of education costs.

So, in theory, the feds should be footing about $80k, which would still leave the district a $120k bill. That's an enormous sum, equivalent to the entire discretionary budget of any 3-5 mid-sized elementary schools.

And, just what are we talking about here?

In his ruling, Goldhammer wrote that Luke needs to be in a residential facility and ordered the district to continue paying the roughly $130,000-a-year cost of the Boston school until the district finds another residential school for him to attend.

Jeff and Julie Perkins pulled Luke out of Berthoud Elementary after deciding the educational plan offered by the district in December 2003 was inadequate.

At age 9, Luke slept on the floor, ate only yogurt, crackers and croutons, couldn't dress himself, threw tantrums in public, and was not toilet-trained.

As he grew older, he became more physically aggressive toward his mother and younger sister.

The most crucial issue, his parents and a former special-education teacher testified, was that Luke was unable to carry over daily living skills he learned in school to other environments, such as his home.

For example, at school he had a 60-word vocabulary but spoke only about 10 at home.

That's unfortunate, and, believe me, I feel for the Perkinses. I cannot imagine the difficult life they are faced with with their child. . .oh, yeah, whom they don't have to care for because he's in Boston.

In his decision, Goldhammer wrote that "children with autism need structure, predictability and planning." He criticized the district for not designating a residential program that would prevent Luke from regressing.

The decision "raises the issue of what are the responsibilities (of a district) outside of the school setting," Stuller said. "That's the legal issue we would be appealing."

Yes, I would say it does raise that very issue. And, perhaps more to the point, at what point do a district's responsibilities outside the school setting HAVE to take a secondary place to their responsibilities inside the school setting?

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