Monday, October 11, 2010

Federal courts have ordered public funds be spent for private school tuition

The United States Supreme Court in the 2009 Forrest Grove decision concluded "that IDEA authorizes [tuition] reimbursement for the cost of private special education services."

The Court recognized that if a public school fails to provide an appropriate education to a student as required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) that the public school could be required to pay for the private school placement chosen by the parents if the "...private-school placement is appropriate...."

The Jenks and Broken Arrow School Boards have openly defied a new law created by House Bill 3393 because of questionable legal concerns. These two school boards had other legal option available to them to answer their concerns that would not have required parents to sue. The position statement issued by the Jenks school district says that the "funding of private schools under house Bill 3393 violates the Oklahoma Constitution."

What these school districts clearly fail to realize is that the United States Supreme Court has specifically said school districts can actually be required to pay for private education if they fail to meet their obligations under IDEA. It would appear that our state Constitution is potentially in conflict with the United States Constitution.

House Bill 3393 allows for parents to be reimbursed through a publicly funded scholarship to cover the cost of placement in an appropriate private school without the need to sue the public school system. The benefit of HB 3393 is that parents aren't forced to sue the school district to get reimbursed and the scholarship amount is limited.

If a parent were to win a lawsuit for reimbursement in a federal court the school district would be required to pay for the private school tuition regardless of the Jenks and Broken Arrow public schools' reading of the Oklahoma Constitution. Would they be so cavalier as to ignore a federal court order?

Must we force the parents to sue the school district? I believe HB 3393 provides a constitutional and much less costly alternative for both the parents and the school district.
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