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Why Does My Kid Get The Chevy And Not The Cadillac?

As a parent, you may have heard someone say that children who receive special education services are only entitled to those services that would amount to a Chevy, and not those that would amount to a Cadillac. A person at the school district might have said it to you, or someone else, basically telling you that your child isn't entitled to the best, only serviceable special education. As a parent, you always want the best for your child, so how can this be right?

The seminal case in the development of special education services in the United States as they stand today is Hendrick Hudson Central School District Board of Education v. Rowley, a case decided by the United States Supreme Court back in 1982. The Court said many things of importance in this case, but one of those was that that Congressional intent was only to provide a "basic floor of opportunity" to students with disabilities by providing them access to public education, as opposed to addressing the quality of education received once in school. This has been determined by many courts since 1982 as the IDEA does not require schools to provide students with the best or optimal education, nor to ensure that students receive services to enable them to maximize their potential. Instead, schools are obligated only to offer services that provide students with "some educational benefit."

Courts sometimes refer to this as the Cadillac versus Chevrolet argument, with the student entitled to a serviceable Chevrolet, not a Cadillac. Does it sound right to say your child isn't entitled to the best education possible? No. Is it true with regard to the legal standard of special education? Yes.

What does this mean for you? Instead of asking for the "best," start asking for what is "appropriate given your child's disability." The key word is "appropriate," and not "best" or "greatest." Also, be aware that "some educational benefit" is not the same as anything at all. Courts have routinely held that the educational benefit to your child has to be meaningful benefit, and that means that anything at all won't do. Determining "benefit" is a hard thing to do, and courts have not made it much clearer, but your child must be making meaningful educational benefit in order to be getting a free and appropriate public education.

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2 Comments

I attended the Annual COPAA Convention in Miami this weekend. I am a parent w/2 ESE children - both w/LD....

I am aghast at how legal jurisprudence is mrophing IDEA. A most recent case within Court of Appeals - 8th circuit states - a disability eligibility is not substantive ..... but the IEP is????

I am proposing a new strategy.... reallocate the money that is being used in Due Process cases to create such precident.....
And instead develop a national public information campaing pointing out...

Congress intent for students with disabilities i'is that children who receive special education services are only entitled to those services that would amount to a Chevy, and not those that would amount to a Cadillac......

I don't think it would take long to resteer 'Congressional Intent.

Paren

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Augustin Egelsee L.L.P.
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