The 411 On Special Education and Private School—Part 2

 The 411 On Special Education and Private School—Part 2

By Kami-Leigh Agard

Parents: you should know that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) says that all children must be given a “free appropriate public education… and related services designed to meet their unique needs.” If a school district, (including the DOE public special education District 75), cannot provide an appropriate program for your child, your child may be entitled to funding for a private school, paid by your home district. Typically, if the DOE Committee on Special Education (CSE) recommends non-public school for your child or gives your child a “Nickerson letter,” you will be restricted to only private schools that the state has pre-approved for this purpose (i.e., “state-approved” private schools). However, when you deem the state-approved options are not appropriate for your child or those schools are full, luckily, there are two ways to have the DOE pay for a private school—known as Carter funding and Connors funding.

Before I break down what Carter funding is, this may be a tough pill to swallow, but I highly recommended hiring a lawyer—astute and experienced with the special education process. For the last four years, my daughter’s dad and I have used the same lawyer in our due-process complaints, asking the DOE to pay for specialized private school for our daughter. This year, we were able to escape the impartial hearing as our lawyer was able to prove that though the DOE was provided with a host of new evaluations for our daughter, they did not facilitate in a timely fashion her IEP (Individualized Education Program) for this school year. We are not wealthy by any means, however, hiring a lawyer has saved us tremendous stress and heartache. It is important to note that once you win your case, the DOE is also required to reimburse your legal fees. As to when you will actually receive the reimbursement, that’s another tree you’ll have to climb.

As aforementioned, if you are a parent within the NYC DOE, you have two types of private school funding available for your child: Carter funding and Connors funding.

Carter funding is when you pay the tuition upfront and seek reimbursement at an impartial hearing. At the hearing, you will have to show that: (1) the DOE has failed to offer your child an appropriate program or IEP, (2) the non-approved private school you selected is appropriate for your child, and (3) the equities weigh in your favor (you were cooperative in the process, you submitted the requisite 10-day notice, etc.).

Carter funding is based on a pivotal decision by the Supreme Court. In 1983, a couple in South Carolina requested that their daughter’s middle school evaluate her for learning disabilities. The school responded that the child, Shannon Carter, was merely lazy and indifferent, perhaps rather slow, and that it was up to her parents to motivate her to work harder. Two years later, Shannon, by then in high school, was still struggling to read and had become severely depressed. A school psychologist finally determined that Shannon had dyslexia and ADHD. Soon after, Shannon’s parents enrolled her in a private special-education school that their district had not approved and sued for reimbursement of the tuition. In 1993, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of the Carter family, agreeing that the district had failed to fulfill Shannon’s right to a free appropriate public education.

NYC’s public-school system has roughly a million students; about a hundred and eighty-one thousand of them have IEPs, and there are thousands of Carter cases pending at any time. Because federal law requires that IEPs be reviewed annually, families typically must file due-process complaints for tuition reimbursement every school year, which puts additional strain on the system. Yes—even if your child is in the same private school—you have to a file a due-process complaint with the DOE every year, which is extremely taxing, stressful and not to mention, costly!

Stay tuned for my next column in which I discuss Connors funding, and the cruel irony of why pursuing a private school education feels like you have to dumb down your child to get them what they need.

Share your thoughts by emailing: Today—Thursday, July 27, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.—join Rockaway Beach Autism Families at our Third Annual “Dance Out Under The Stars for Autism” at Caracas, Beach 106th Conc ession. For more info, visit: Rockaway Beach Autism Families on Facebook/Instagram.

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