Parents of children with disabilities learn some lessons the hard way. When children leave public school with the McKay Scholarships, children lose their rights under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA). Parents may have from $5,000 to $23,000 in tuition vouchers, but private schools are not accountable for the money provided. In today’s New York Times, Dana Goldstein explains.
IDEA rights lost for students in private schools include:
- a free education.
- the same level of service received in public schools.
- a right to a hearing for disciplinary problems.
- a certified teacher or even a college educated teacher.
- a specialized curriculum to meet children’s needs.
- a right to attend the school.
While 30,000 children in Florida receive McKay scholarships, many do not stay in private schools. Their average stay is 3.6 years. Parents may find that their children are taught mostly on line. Others are simply asked to leave school because the children are difficult to manage. Some parents must pay large fees in addition to the scholarships in order to receive services. None of this is illegal and most is unknown by parents.
There may be no perfect school, but public school students have rights guaranteed by federal legislation. Some private schools may provide appropriate service. Parents need to know which are which.
Our communities need to be aware that the public schools are required to protect the rights of all children. They are accountable to the State. Private schools may need a ‘buyer beware’ sign.