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Educational Benefits Outweigh Costs to Private Placements

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Educational Benefits Outweigh Costs to Private Placements

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A recent article in Cape Cod Today reported that, among all Cape Cod school districts, 237 students with special needs had been placed in private placements during the last school year at a cost to taxpayers of $19 Million. As is regrettably common when the costs of educating our most severely disabled children are highlighted, this article elicited comments from readers suggesting that these children are merely being “warehoused” and that they derive no educational benefit from these placements. Nothing could be further from the truth.

As an attorney whose practice frequently involves advocating for specialized placements for children with significant special needs, I can attest to the benefits that flow to these youngsters, not only academically but socially and emotionally as well. Critics of private placements overlook the reality that children are not placed outside of their local school district simply upon their parents’ request. A child’s entitlement to a private placement comes into effect only upon a finding that his local school cannot provide appropriate services to allow him to make meaningful progress in the area of his disability. In other words, a child does not get a private placement unless his local school is unable to meet his needs.

No parent derives pleasure from having his or her child spending hours on a bus in traffic every day traveling to a private school, which is what many of my young clients must do. It is safe to say that, in a perfect world, all of these students would be educated in their home town in their local school alongside friends from their neighborhood. The reality is, however, that there is an abundance of significantly disabled children who have needs that their local school districts cannot serve, or choose not to serve, even though it would often be more cost effective to create more intensive programs within the District. Faced with no alternatives, these children have the absolute right to attend a private school elsewhere, one where they have the same opportunity to learn or to read or to simply gain life skills that will enhance their ability to live a productive life. The cost to society of not providing this type of critical education to our most needy and deserving students is staggering – both monetarily and morally – and dwarfs the $19 Million spent on Cape Cod last year.

Written by Jeff Sankey

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