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Supreme Court To Weigh Special Education Funding

April 29 2009 | by

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments Tuesday in an Oregon case in which a local school district contends that students should at least give public special education programs a try before seeking reimbursement for private school tuition.

A federal appeals court sided with a high-school student identified in court papers only as T.A. The student enrolled in a $5,200-a-month private program and sought reimbursement from the Forest Grove School District. The Supreme Court heard a similar case from New York in 2007, but split 4-4 on the outcome.

According to a Law.com article, Justice Anthony Kennedy appeared to hold the key vote, and his comments at the argument were difficult to interpret as favoring one side or the other.

In the case before the Court today, T.A., now 23, was a public school student in Oregon. In spite of difficulties in school, he never used special education services. School officials evaluated him and suspected he had Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, but concluded he was not eligible for special ed.

After he experienced more serious problems and began using marijuana in 2003, T.A.’s parents took him out of the public high school and enrolled him in a residential private school where tuition was $5,200 a month. His family sought reimbursement from the school district.

Tuesday’s case represents the third time school districts have sought relief from the high court for what schools fear would be a sharp increase in costs for special education services. The National School Boards Association in a brief to the court said those costs “vastly exceed” the federal funding they receive under the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act.

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