Private-school tuition for special-education students burdens New York City public schools, writes Barbara Martinez in the Wall Street Journal. The school district spent $116 million last year on legal costs and tuition for students whose parents successfully argued the public schools weren’t meeting their needs. “That’s more than double the number of just three years ago, and the costs are expected to continue to rise in coming years.”
Don’t blame special ed, responds Jay P. Greene. That $116 million is more of a “rounding error” than a burden. It amounts to about .6% of total spending.
Furthermore, while the city is spending $28,571 on average for 4,060 privately placed special education students, it spends an average of $24,773 on special education students who stay in the public system. The extra expenditure of $3,798 per privately placed student over 4,060 students adds up to $15.4 million, less than .09% of the education budget.
Blaming special ed “distracts people from the true and large areas of waste burdening the school system,” Greene writes.
Washington, D.C. schools have handled special education so poorly that 25 percent of disabled students attend a private school at district expense. The annual bill is $283 million, reports the Washington Post. Mayor Adrian Fenty wants to bring most of the students — and the funding — back to public schools, but it’s proving very hard to persuade parents that “reintegration” is in their children’s best interests.