Parents who contend that schools are failing their special needs children will now have to do more than make the claim in order to get the additional services they desire. They'll have to prove their case. The Supreme Court's decision on Monday that parents, and not school districts, bear the burden of proof when contesting the goals and instructional methods spelled out in their children's individualized education plan(s) (IEP) could greatly reduce the number of cases that go to court for resolution. Districts see an opportunity to save big bucks. In the District of Columbia, the amount spent on IEP appeals jumped from $499,000 in 2001 to $2.9 million in 2005. "This will help us pare down the amount of money spent on special education and allow us to use that money to give students a world-class education in the D.C. school system," says the D.C. school board president. We'll see about that. Others worry that the children of parents unable to afford costly litigation will suffer most. Gadfly wonders: why not leave the school systems in charge of the services they provide (which the ruling does) but also offer parents scholarship money so, if they disagree with their district's special education approach, they can move their children to another school?
"In Special-Ed Case, Court Backs Montgomery Schools," by Charles Lane and Lori Aratani, Washington Post, November 15, 2005
"D.C. Schools See Opportunity to Pare Back," by Lori Aratani and V. Dion Haynes, Washington Post, November 15, 2005
"Parents Carry Burden of Proof in School Cases, Court Rules," by Linda Greenhouse, New York Times, November 15, 2005