Damning with faint reward
Why is it that people always seem to spend more energy on a work-a-round rather than just doing what is right in the first place? Federal law (IDEA) and most state laws require that children with disabilities be given a free, appropriate education at public expense. This provision is called FAPE. Under the law this is a right that goes with the child. There are other rights and privileges in the law that essentially make kids with disabilities a protected class.
Now some states are sort of posting a “we are not responsible sign”. They are buying off desperate families with vouchers that do not cover the cost of a private education and that require families to sign away their children’s legal rights in order to receive even the partial benefit. Children whose families cannot afford the differential between the public voucher and the private tuition are flat out of luck. However, even the fiscally endowed children have to give up their legal rights in order to secure the voucher.
This arrangement is very confusing to me. The right to FAPE is a right that belongs to every child with a disability in our country. So the question is how does a local school district get around providing that right to kids by buying their parents off with a less than fully paid education? The short answer is simple. Parents are so frustrated by what they see happening to their kids in the inappropriate education provided by the public schools that they will accept the short straw to assist them in providing the appropriate program for their children.They see time running out for their children to get the education they need. In exchange for this short term solution, the children sacrifice their rights. The children must leave behind all of the protections offered to them by law.
Families with resources can make that choice, even though it may be a Sophie’s choice. Families without resources cannot. But here is the other damage that is done. Generally, the families with financial resources are the better educated families. With those families gone, who will fight for FAPE for the kids whose families cannot accept the short straw.
And where are the government officials at the federal level who are charged with making sure these kinds of things do not happen? Federal law and state law require that ALL children with disabilities have a FREE education at public expense; there is no footnote that says that only applies to some kids.