Arming You to Advocate for Your Child
Armed with nine years of special needs home school consulting while also being the mother, foster mother, and sibling to 10 special needs children/adults who have been home schooled, I decided to take on the challenge and write a series of blogs for THSC as a rebuttal to the information gathered in this study as it corresponds to, or negates, what I have seen over the years in the special needs home schooling community. My desire is that in expanding upon background information this study fails to include, I can help special needs home schooling parents to better defend their rights and at the same time give them a greater ability to advocate for their own children in the sometimes hostile environment their local school districts present them.
Your Special Needs Child: A Prized Possession of Public Schools?
Thus, to start off this blog series, we are going to begin at the root of the issue and delve into the reasoning behind why the author of the study in question is concerned that “ . . . school districts are losing funding for [special needs] students” (page 2). And, why the final sentence in her Problem Statement in this paper declares: “This study contributes to the understanding of the homeschool trend for students with disabilities and provides information that can be used to assist educators to better serve students and ultimately keep them in public schools” (page 5).
Certainly, special education funding is a very interesting and sometimes complex subject. In this case, it is the basis behind why special needs children are such a prized possession of the public schools. In general, public schools are given special needs funds from their district at a rate double of what they are given for a regularly enrolled student. On top of that, there are dedicated federal monies and grants available to special needs departments. Some of those funds are given per enrolled special needs students, while other funds are part of grants given to specific districts or schools that either elect to participate in a specific program or that have enough students to qualify for federal special needs initiatives, programs, and studies.
Is this the Case in Texas?
On the flip-side, federal law per the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) states that school districts must provide some form of special education to families in their district whether their child is enrolled in the public school or elsewhere (for example a private school or home school environment). Per this Act, the regulations require public schools to “provide special education and related services designed to meet the needs of private school children with disabilities residing in [their] jurisdiction.” However, Texas state law limits these parameters by stating, “No private school child with a disability has an individual right to receive some or all of the special education and related services that the child would receive if enrolled in a public school.” Thus, removing a child from enrollment in the public school reduces your choice and decreases the special needs funds the child would normally have contributed towards the school district’s general budget through enrollment.
Added to that, the Texas Education Commissioner explains that “public schools are now required to spend a portion of their IDEA funds to provide for participation for private school children (which home schools are a type of private school within Texas) with disabilities.” However, “the type of services and manner in which they are provided are to be determined by the local school district based on consultations with appropriate representatives of private school children with disabilities.” The Commissioner concluded by saying, “Those students will receive only those services that can be supported by federal funds . . . .”
Only about 15 percent of all the funding for each local school districts’ special needs department comes from money allocated by the federal government per IDEA, so these limited funds really get the squeeze when the number of private and home school students who pull from these funds increase and the district budget stays the same. Consequently, when parents choose to send their special needs student to a private school or to home school, withdraw him or her from the public school, or request services from the public schools’ special education department, they directly affect the district’s general budget as well as the special education fund, and the impact is much greater per child removed or transitioned.
It is not a wonder that many parents who home school their special needs children have to fight such a difficult battle to remove and keep their children out of the public school special needs arena. Your kids are unfortunately a source of big income for a school district’s yearly budget, and/or you are a threat because they know you can request services that will deplete their special education fund as well as their general fund. But don’t let me paint such a bleak picture for all the school districts out there, as some districts do go out of their way to help children no matter what educational choices their parents have made for their special needs child. If you happen to be in one of those districts, count yourself exceptionally blessed.
It’s Difficult, But You’re Not Alone
As parents of special needs children, I know you understand the many fronts you fight in the battle to raise rightly your most vulnerable and precious children. You face heightened attacks not only from your school district, but also the public in general, as you make the choice to home school your child. We at THSC understand that battle, and we desire to equip you with all the information you need to best advocate your unique rights to home school your children with special needs.
Next, we are going to talk about perspectives on teaching and dig into the many ways special needs parents are one of the largest threats to educators today.
Until then, I am praying for all of you and the special call God has placed upon your hearts to home school your special needs children. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Keep in mind that you must “ . . . run with endurance the race that is set before [you], looking onto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12: 1b – 2) where He intercedes for you 24/7. He understands your every need, and He tells you that faith in Him is all you need to finish the race well!
God bless dear ones.
Since 1986, THSC has fought to Keep Texas Families Free. During that time, the coalition recognizes that special needs families are battling to keep free in many ways. You can rest assured, THSC will stand by its members to continue protecting the rights of your family and to support you along the way. Is your family a THSC member family? If not, join today!