Education

Who Pays for Private School Costs in Special Education?

September 02, 2009 1 min read

When the parents of a special needs student decide to create their own education plan involving expensive private tutors, who should pay? That was the subject of a moving story that ran in Sunday’s Washington Post.

Jacqueline and Carl Simchick have been embroiled in a lengthy and costly legal battle with the Fairfax County, Va., school district seeking reimbursement for tutoring services for their son, Matthew. He was diagnosed with mental retardation, autism, and speech and language impairment, the article said.

Dissatisfied with Matthew’s progress at Fairfax public schools, the Simchicks pushed for more one-on-one instruction. When the school system would not provide it, they sent their son to a private tutoring center. And they sent the bill to Fairfax County. Fairfax officials argued that the tutoring center was not accredited and that the family was defying compulsory attendance laws, the Post reported.

The Simchicks told the Post they spent more than $700,000 in legal fees and school costs, raising the money by maxing out their credit cards, cashing in their older son’s college savings, borrowing against their 401(k)s and refinancing their five-bedroom home four times.

After years of court decisions and appeals, a judge’s ruling this month provided about a third of what the Simchicks sought, the Post said. They are considering whether to appeal.

Disputes over who pays for private school costs are among the most contentious in special education, with a growing number ending up in court, the Post said.

A version of this news article first appeared in the On Special Education blog.

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