Spring 2021 —
The MLO Minute: By Dennis McAndrews, Esq. and Alexander Corbin, Esq. —
June is the most critical time for families when they are considering a private school for their child with disabilities for the upcoming school year. As the end of the current school year approaches, families are best able to take stock of whether their child is making adequate progress in a traditional public school or charter school setting, or whether a more specialized private school program, typically with smaller classes and unique services, is required to provide an appropriate special education program. Similarly, if a child is already in a private special education program, parents often assess whether past tuition reimbursement is possible and/or whether future tuition payments can be obtained. While the test for obtaining tuition reimbursement is clear, applying that test to the individual circumstances can be confusing for families, and almost always requires informed and experienced advocacy on behalf of the family with the public school or charter school.
Under federal special education law, students who are eligible for special education under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act or Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act may be entitled to tuition reimbursement under the following three-part test. First, has the public school or charter school offered an appropriate educational program currently and/or in the past? Second, does the private school offer a program which is “proper“ for the child? Third, are there any equitable considerations which weigh against providing tuition reimbursement, such as the family’s unwillingness to cooperate with the school district in scheduling IEP meetings or failing to provide at least 10 business days’ notice that the child would be enrolled in the private school to the public/charter school before the start of the school year?
Assessing the potential for obtaining private school tuition involves a careful analysis of each of these factors, and we also review whether the district has failed to provide appropriate programming in the past, so as to create a potential for significant compensatory education which might be used to negotiate private school tuition for one or more future years. As such, a holistic analysis to the child’s past, present, and future educational needs are critical in making sound judgments with respect to the potential for obtaining private school tuition reimbursement for future or past tuition expenses.
Our Special Education Department has extensive experience and an excellent track record of success in pursuing tuition reimbursement in appropriate cases. Our initial consultation in special education matters is free, and most of our cases are handled without hourly charges of fees to families. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us to schedule a record review and consultation to address any issue related to your child’s critical special education needs.