Monday, June 16, 2008

Free and appropriate, mm-hmm

Special needs cases tax state education budget
Then came middle school. District officials said they could help Sam, legal records show. They integrated Sam, then in 6th grade, with traditional students because test scores showed he could handle the work and they believed it put him in the least restrictive environment, a tenet of federal law.

But the chaos of six class changes, tougher assignments and what the Levins contend was misplaced support, proved too much. Sam's depression worsened, and in February 2007 he became suicidal, they said.

The Levins withdrew Sam and moved him to New Hope Academy in Niles, where two dozen teachers and psychologists oversee 60 students.

For the first time, Sam wasn't the only bipolar student in class. His medical prescriptions fell from four to two, and his mood swings leveled.

But Sam's plateau came as his family labored to secure his costly education. The Levins fronted the cost of private school and spent $15,000 on legal fees while requesting that the Evanston district reimburse them for the costs.

In December, Judge Julia Quinn Dempsey determined the district should have done a better job of training teachers and staff on the nuances of bipolar disorder. The ruling in the due process hearing required the Evanston district to pay Sam's tuition and the Levin's legal bills, for a total of $51,000.

That's at least how much it would cost the district to pay one teacher's salary and benefits. But now the district has to pay for him to attend a private therapeutic school.

Is it what the kid needs? You bet. I won't even bat an eye at that one -- remember, I live with one just like him.

Is it the school's job to provide it? You bet. You see, they made the nest they're living in. It's called FAPE -- that every single solitary child, no matter the abilities or lack thereof, has the RIGHT to a Free, Appropriate Public Education.

But it's going to collapse because it isn't possible. We could all pay one hundred percent in taxes and there still wouldn't be enough money to educate every single child to the point where they can pass the Iowa Test of Basic Skills or the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills or whatever other standardized test somebody wants to give them.

I've actually been looking forward to the collapse of the public education system for many years. I think it could really change things for the better. It's too bad all our hard-earned money has to get flushed down the toilet in the meantime. If I had all the money we shell out in ridiculous taxes, I could afford to medicate and educate my children without anyone's help.

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