Allow federal help for special education services to private school children
As if it’s not bad enough that the Massachusetts Constitution still includes amendments rooted in the anti-Catholic bigotry of the 19th century, we now learn that the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is using the amendments to deny hundreds of millions of federal dollars’ worth of special education services to students who attend private and religious schools.
To those of us who have advocated for special needs children and fought for the poor and needy in a state that prides itself on the prowess of its educational system, this is egregious.
Each year, the federal government allocates billions of dollars to states through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. For the current fiscal year, the Commonwealth received $255.5 million.
States apportion the money to public school districts, each of which are supposed to determine the “proportionate share” of federal money that should be used to provide special education services to eligible private and religious school students with disabilities who attend private schools located within that school district.
Yet Massachusetts has long flouted the law, apparently unaware that federal law supersedes state law if the two conflict. Massachusetts asserts that state and locally funded special education services to private school students are more generous than those provided to them under federal law. The Commonwealth uses this blanket claim to argue that the special education needs of private school students in Massachusetts are being adequately met.
Nothing could be further from the truth.