Supremes May Decide How Much Education Is Enough
The case of Endrew F. vs. Douglas County School District has finally wended its way to the Supreme Court, and it could have some serious implications for school districts across the country.
Endrew F. is a studentwith autism and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). With the help of an IEP, he attended pre-K through 4th grade in Douglas County Schools out in Colorado (if that sounds familiar, it's because they have been ground zero for some reformy shenanigans, as chronicled in the film Education, Inc.-- but that's unrelated to our story today other than it takes a real bunch of stubborn leaders to get a school district dragged into the highest court in the land like this). Going into fifth grade, Endrew's parents deemed his IEP Not Good Enough, and they placed him in a private school.
Now, the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA-- no, I've never known where the damn E comes from--Correction-- it stands for Education, a word often dropped from some namings, which I should have known) says that if a district can't handle the education of a student with special needs, they have to foot the bill to send the student to some school that can deal. The child has to receive a "free appropriate public education."
The F's, however, apparently chose a Lexus for the child when the district only wanted to pay for a Kia, or maybe a Chevy Cruze. And it is over that business of exactly who is going to pay how much of which bill for Endrew's education that puts the matter in court.
This has, as you might imagine, come up before, and various lower courts have applied a some standards that are both inconsistent and vague. For instance, a couple of years ago, courts in Michigan declared that the state didn't have to get students an education-- just spend money on something called education, whether it worked or not. Here Joseph R. Smith explains the central issue of Endrew in a Denver Post op-ed:
The lower federal courts basically agree that the test should turn on how much the student CURMUDGUCATION: Supremes May Decide How Much Education Is Enough: