Equal Access for Special Needs children
The Developmental Disabilities Council is a statewide agency that works on policies that promote the inclusion of students with disabilities to participate in life, just as any other student would. The federal education act, IDEA or the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, has been a positive force in students with disabilities being able to attend public school since 1975. Prior to that a school could and often did reject students with disabilities at the front door. Many odd legacy schools still exist that were created by parents who had no other options but to meet in church basements or to create their own school. Laradon Hall is one such example. The D.D. Council does not support the funding of private schools of any kind using public dollars, including the use of education savings accounts. Our direct experience with students who have IEPs is that private schools tend to block their enrollment as well as not be aware of the requirements of such students if they are allowed to enroll. A family I worked with to get enrolled in a Catholic private school is an illustration of the discrimination children face. This family had six children, the youngest of which has Down Syndrome. All of the siblings were enrolled in the private school, but when it came to the student with needs for accommodations, the family was blocked. It is not unusual for schools to block students who are different from attending. We look at the Finnish model of education as best practice in that all schools are open to all students with incredible international outcomes. There are next to no special or private schools in the entire country. Thanks for your concern on this important issue.