Before 1975 and the passage of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, schools often denied enrollment to those with serious behavioral disorders or assigned them to segregated facilities. But IDEA required mainstreaming, which meant putting them in the least-restrictive appropriate setting. Unfortunately, this has created the basis for disputes (“Families endure costly legal fights trying to get the right special education services,” Los Angeles Times, Oct. 6).
These disagreements are called due process cases, and they are quite costly. For example, the San Diego Unified School District last year paid $2 million to settle 128 such cases. To reduce the cost, some districts use alternative dispute resolution. There are no lawyers, just the district’s special education director, parents and a third-party arbitrator.
What I’ve never understood is why the federal government is not more fully responsible for the cost of special education. After all, IDEA is a federal law. But like so many other issues in education, the states are being saddled with the bulk of the cost.
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