Learn Something New Everyday - Today Special Education

This interesting op-ed appeared in today's Seattle Times. I didn't know but apparently the IDEA regulation for special ed to be provided to kids in both public and private schools did not extend to religious private schools. And, Superintendent Dorn is set to change that and will have a public hearing for comments on it.

I don't want to see anything to bring religion into public school classrooms but this is giving a service to a student who needs it. For me, if we pay for services for kids in a secular private classroom, we should pay for students in a religious classroom. (And this becomes a bit more complicated because the Supreme Court recently ruled that a student does not have to enroll in public school first before choosing to move to a private school where the services have to be paid for by the school district.)

However, I did read the Comments section and agreed with this:

"I find it ironic that those who discriminate, like not hiring qualified teachers because they don't have certain religious beliefs, are crying about discrimination. "

And there is truth to that both in the teachers a private school may hire and the students they may enroll. ALL private schools, secular or religious, can to pick and choose who to enroll and what services they will or will not offer. Public schools take all comers.


ARB said…
I see both sides of this debate, but it really should come down to what is best for the kid. For example, if you have a child attending religious school who, let's say in 3rd grade, is diagnosed with a learning delay, should the child have to be moved from the school where s/he has been for 4 years simply to receive therapy or tutoring s/he is entitled to under the IDEA? The money isn't being used to support the school or its religious mission, it is being used to support that specific student.
Teachermom said…
Yikes - Seattle Times comments - always a bad idea to read those.

I am a Special Ed. teacher, and I have worked with students from religious private schools. They go to the closest public school with room in the program to receive services - transportation covered by the public school district.

It is hard to take the OpEd seriously when he uses the example of the hearing aid. It would never work that way - it is just another alarmist falsehood like the ones being perpetuated by the people against health care reform, I mean, against anything that Obama might come up with. And kids who use wheelchairs have to check out their wheelchairs from the special ed teacher when they come to school each day.....

I think it is an issue of cost and logistics more than religion-bashing. Because private schools can choose who to serve, they generally end up with a smaller population of students with special needs. Whether it is an issue of discrimination or just an honest admission that they do not have the resources to serve the students, I don't know. Or maybe parents of kids with special needs tend to choose public because they know that the services are there.

If there is one student with a learning disability at a specific religious private school, a teacher would have to travel to that school just to work with that one student (one-to-one services with a special ed. teacher, not too common in special education, and very costly). There would be the additional expense of travel time for the teacher, collaboration time at each school the teacher traveled to, and yes, the issue of discrimination.

Will only straight, Christian teachers be allowed to hold these positions? This would conflict with the hiring policies of the public schools.

Could it all work? Maybe. But it is not as simplistic as the author of the OpEd would have us believe.
Teachermom said…
Another thing - I know that some secular private schools charge extra for special services - I don't know if they are working with the district or just doing their own thing....but if there are district teachers working in the building, those services should be free.
Josh Hayes said…
I see your point, Aurora. It's a clash of imperatives. I'm active in assessing science education standards, and I can tell you that a lot of religious schools (not parochial, but others) in the Seattle area teach stuff in "science" classes which is simply wrong. I'd hate to see my tax dollars paying to actively promote ignorance.

But your point about established routines also resonates. I'm torn, but your statement that "The money isn't being used to support the school or its religious mission, it is being used to support that specific student" is not correct. The mission of such schools is grounded in religion and religious instruction. I don't think the religious and secular aspects can be teased apart and so justify giving money to those schools, either morally or under the WA state constitution.

I am, however, not a lawyer. Just a scientist.
hschinske said…
"It is hard to take the OpEd seriously when he uses the example of the hearing aid."

I would bet a small quantity of money that the reporter (or perhaps a subsequent copy editor) oversimplified, and that the example he was told about was something like a sound-field system (I think that's the kind where the teacher wears an infrared transmitter and the student has a receiver), not an in-ear hearing aid. I've heard about numerous hassles getting such systems (both in public and private arenas).

Helen Schinske

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