Setback for home-schooled special ed kids

April 9, 2008 4:50:44 PM PDT
There has been a major setback for New York families who home school their special-needs children.A change in the law means many services, like speech and physical therapy, will no longer be paid for by local school districts.

Education reporter Art McFarland has more.

Home school families in New York have been notified that their government-financed, special ed services would be cut off.

"If somebody needs help, they're not getting getting what they need," home school student Sammy Adams said.

Some home schooled students have several learning disabilities.

"Sammy is vision impaired, speech impaired," mom Diane Adams said. "He's cerebral palsy, he's got ADD, it's basically putting more burden on me."

"You're breaking the continuity of education by taking services away in the middle of a school year," parent Leisa Mullin said.

"I feel like it's discrimination against us on the basis of home schooling," parent Nancy D'Antonio said.

Special ed services are available to both public and private school students under federal law. But a recent New York state interpretation of federal guidelines has determined that home schoolers no longer qualify.

Aaron Saiger is an associate law professor at Fordham University.

"Home schooling is different from private schooling in that there's not a full school program," he said. "And the state is entitled, clearly, under federal law, to treat home schooling differently than it treats private schools."

There are more than 30 families affected in the city and some 430 statewide. They receive services, which seem to cost an average of a few hundred dollars per week. Most are eligible for taxpayer financed tuition at private schools, which would cost tens of thousands of dollars a year per child.

Home school parents point out that they are taxpayers who pay for their children's education with their time.

"I thought, 'Here I am going the extra mile, getting my child everything she deserves and needs,'" parent Dawn Fox said. "I get very emotional when I think about this."

These parents say they are not inclined, now, to enroll their kids in school.

They are working with legislators toward changing the law, so they can continue their special ed services.