Study: Systemic Failure in IDEA Implementation for Private School Students with Disabilities in Additional States

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on
LinkedIn
+

States, school districts failing to allocate sufficient federal funding to special needs students in private schools   

BOSTON – On the heels of a $3.8 million settlement for private school students with disabilities in Massachusetts for the state’s failure to comply with provisions of the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) that require provision of equitable, publicly funded special education services to students in private schools, a Pioneer Institute study finds that two states and three school districts around the country for which data are available also appear to be out of compliance.

“Whether it be state departments of education wrongfully conflating state and federal law and giving school districts faulty or incomplete guidance, or lack of enforcement efforts, private school students are being wrongfully denied access to IDEA-funded special education services,” said Tom Olson, who co-authored “Bad IDEA: How States Block Federal Special Education Funding to Private and Religious School Students” with Kate McConnell and Nancy Kriegel.

Webinar today (Apr. 8th) at 1 pm ET: “Systemic Failure in IDEA Funding for Private School Students”

IDEA requires states to ensure that all public-school students aged 3-21 who have disabilities receive a “free and appropriate education.”  It also requires the provision of equitable services to students with disabilities in private schools.

The federal government appropriates IDEA funding for the states, which then appropriate the money among local school districts.  A “proportionate” share of the funds is to be spent on private school students who attend school within the school district’s geographic boundaries. Proportionate share is determined by a district’s total IDEA allocation, the total number of students within the district who are found to have disabilities, and the percentage of those students who attend private schools.

The law permits states to use their own money to offer special education services to private school students in addition to those required by IDEA.

In theory, Massachusetts is one of those states. However, the state’s anti-aid amendment prohibits state or locally funded services from being delivered at the private school site. In practice, this makes it difficult for students to access services and support. Until recently there was also confusion regarding federally funded services provided under IDEA. However, given the private school coalition’s work in partnership with Massachusetts DESE, and the recent settlement, private school students with disabilities can now access federally funded special education services on site at their schools.

To determine whether such non-compliance is common, the authors sent Freedom of Information Act requests to 12 states and 8 school districts that are geographically representative to determine how IDEA funding was allocated to students with disabilities in private schools beginning with the 2015-16 school year.  Only five – Florida, Missouri, Denver, Los Angeles and Portland, OR – more-or-less furnished the requested information.  In nearly all cases, the states and school districts didn’t provide proportionate share numbers, meaning the authors had to do their best to calculate it themselves based on the data provided.

The authors assumed that between 7 percent and 14 percent of private school students have special needs. The best results were from Denver, where during the 2015-16 school year between a quarter and half of the money that should have been made available for provide school students was allocated to them.  The poorest performer was Florida.  There only between 0.7 percent and 1.3 percent of the appropriate proportionate share was made available to private school students with special needs during the 2017-18 school year.

“Since the data are not being gathered in any meaningful way, it’s challenging if not impossible to hold agencies accountable for complying with IDEA,” said Director of Pioneer Education Jamie Gass.

Among the authors’ recommendations are that USED collect the applicable data from the states, that each state assume that at least 7 percent of private school students have special needs, and that each state appoint an IDEA ombudsman.

About the Authors

Tom Olson: Tom is currently a Principal Partner of ADAC. Tom has overseen development efforts, augmented donor commitment, and cultivated major gifts for a variety of organizations. Supporting initiatives that advance in government and civil society limited government and the principle of subsidiarity, Tom’s professional competencies include published writing and public policy research. Tom holds a bachelor’s degree from the College of the Holy Cross and graduate degrees from Saint Louis University and Boston College.

Nancy Kriegel:  Nancy is currently the Executive Director of Yad Chessed (“Hand of Loving Kindness”), a social service agency assisting individuals and families who are living at or below the federal poverty level. Prior to this, she was a Senior Director at Combined Jewish Philanthropies and one of the founders of Gateways: Access to Jewish Education. Nancy is a strong advocate for Jewish Day Schools and the wider Jewish community. Nancy holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and a juris doctor (JD) from the Boston College School of Law.

Kate McConnell: Kate is currently serving as the Director of Inclusive Education for the Office of Catholic Schools of the Archdiocese of Chicago. Previously, she has worked as the Director of Inclusive Education at Chicago’s Our Lady of Mount Carmel Academy. Before becoming a Catholic school educator, she was a special education teacher in public schools. A certified Learning and Behavior Specialist, Kate holds a bachelor’s degree from Towson University and graduate degrees from Loyola University Chicago and DePaul University.

About Pioneer Institute

Pioneer’s mission is to develop and communicate dynamic ideas that advance prosperity and a vibrant civic life in Massachusetts and beyond.

Pioneer’s vision of success is a state and nation where our people can prosper and our society thrive because we enjoy world-class options in education, healthcare, transportation and economic opportunity, and where our government is limited, accountable and transparent.

Pioneer values an America where our citizenry is well-educated and willing to test our beliefs based on facts and the free exchange of ideas, and committed to liberty, personal responsibility, and free enterprise.

Get Updates on Our School Choice Research

Education Posts:

Award-Winner Nathaniel Philbrick on the Mayflower and the First Thanksgiving

This week on “The Learning Curve," Cara and Gerard talk with Nathaniel Philbrick, historian, winner of the National Book Award, finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and author of Mayflower: Voyage, Community, and War. Mr. Philbrick shares what we should know about the actual historical events of the First Thanksgiving in 1621.

Georgia’s Alisha Thomas Searcy on School Choice, Teacher Unions, & Elections

This week on “The Learning Curve," Cara and Gerard talk with Alisha Thomas Searcy, the Democratic nominee for Georgia state school superintendent. She shares her experience as a former six-term state legislator and school leader; her recent bid for Georgia’s top education post; and her passion for K-12 education reform.

KaiPod Learning’s Amar Kumar on Homeschooling Pods & Blended Education

This week on “The Learning Curve," Cara and Gerard talk with Amar Kumar, founder and CEO of KaiPod Learning, a network of in-person education centers for online learners and homeschoolers, based in Massachusetts. They discuss how the pandemic dramatically changed parents’ sentiments about their traditional public schools, opening the door to wider private school choice options, including homeschooling, micro schools, and pods.

Stanford’s Pulitzer-Winning Prof. Jack Rakove on James Madison, The Federalist Papers, & U.S. Constitutionalism

This week on “The Learning Curve," Cara and Gerard talk with Dr. Jack Rakove, Coe Professor of History and American Studies and Professor of Political Science Emeritus at Stanford University, and the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Original Meanings: Politics and Ideas in the Making of the Constitution. Professor Rakove reviews the biography of James Madison, often called the "Father of the Constitution," and the influence of classical and Enlightenment learning on his farsighted political thought and leadership.

UK’s Miranda Seymour on Mary Shelley and Frankenstein for Halloween

This week on a Halloween edition of “The Learning Curve," guest host Mary Z. Connaughton talks with Miranda Seymour, novelist and definitive biographer of Mary Shelley, author of the classic Gothic novel, Frankenstein.

UCLA’s Dr. Maryanne Wolf on Reading, Brain Science, & the Digital Age

This week on “The Learning Curve," Cara Candal and Gerard Robinson talk with Dr. Maryanne Wolf, Director of the Center for Dyslexia and Diverse Learners at the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, and the author of Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World.

Jeff Wetzler, Co-founder of Transcend, on Innovation in School Design

This week on “The Learning Curve," Cara Candal and Gerard Robinson talk with Jeff Wetzler, co-founder of Transcend, a nonprofit focused on innovation in school design that works with hundreds of school communities in over two dozen states in America.

NYT Best Seller Laurence Bergreen on 530th Anniversary of Christopher Columbus Discovering the New World

On this special Columbus Day edition of “The Learning Curve," guest host Pioneer Institute's Mary Z. Connaughton talks with Laurence Bergreen, a prize-winning biographer, historian, chronicler of exploration, and the author of Columbus: The Four Voyages, 1492-1504. Mr. Bergreen discusses what people should know about the life, career, and myths around Christopher Columbus, the courageous, ruthless, and complicated explorer and navigator, on the 530th anniversary of his history-changing and ever-controversial discovery of the New World.

NACSA’s Dr. Karega Rausch on Charter Public School Authorizing

This week on “The Learning Curve," Cara Candal and Gerard Robinson talk with Dr. Karega Rausch, President and CEO of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers. Dr. Rausch shares some of his background, his interest in K-12 education reform and charter public schools, and lessons from Indiana and other states that inform his work.

Khan Academy’s Sal Khan & ASU Prep Digital’s Amy McGrath on the Khan World School @ ASU Prep

This week on “The Learning Curve," Cara Candal and Gerard Robinson talk with Sal Khan, founder and CEO of Khan Academy, and Amy McGrath, the Chief Operating Officer of ASU Prep and Deputy Vice President of ASU Educational Outreach.

Hoover at Stanford’s Dr. Niall Ferguson on Britain, the English-Speaking World, & the Politics of Catastrophe

This week on “The Learning Curve," Cara Candal and Gerard Robinson talk with Dr. Niall Ferguson, the Milbank Family Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and a senior faculty fellow of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard. He is the author of 16 books, including "Doom: The Politics of Catastrophe."

Two Stars in a Glowing Voc-Tech Education System

“A Tale of Two City Schools: Worcester Tech and Putnam Academy Become Models for Recovery” is a new white paper by Pioneer Institute that analyzes how Worcester Tech and Putnam Academy — schools with high numbers of low-income and special needs students — leapt from the bottom of Massachusetts voc-tech rankings to become leaders among local schools.