We have been struggling for the last few months with the Baltimore City school system. We had hoped to get the City to take over tuition payments for our son's special education schooling. He currently attends Baltimore Lab, a special education, arts-based school for bright kids with moderate to severe learning disabilities. It is a wonderful school, and he is thriving there. But the expense is very difficult for us to manage.
We had researched the issue. ADA covers learning disabilities. Under the law, our son is entitled to FAPE (a free and appropriate public education) that must consider physical and other disabilities. So we gathered our various test results, medical results, etc and began the public school process.
We met with a team of specialists. They quickly decided our test results were too old to accept, and that they would have to conduct their own tests. Then they went back on that slightly and said they would accept his IQ results, and his medical results. Because he has ADHD, and Optic Nerve Atrophy, they had no trouble classifying him as disabled and eligible for services.
We were very excited, since we thought this would mean an easy process for getting tuition. But it didn't work out that way at all. The test results came back and I attended a very uncomfortable meeting with the specialist team. They decided he did in fact need OT services. They would provide us the maximum allowed --which turned out to be 1 hour per month! I don't think there is ANY therapy in the world that would be productive on that schedule. They decided he would not be eligible for speech language services, despite his dysgraphia. This is because in Baltimore City, speech language does not cover written language disorders.
Then we got to the crux of the biscuit. He is not eligible for special education because he is performing above grade level in almost everything. Because his current school is so effective, he is now reading at beyond a 12th grade level. Even his math tested at 7th grade (he is in 6th grade). So no services.
If we choose to enroll him in our neighborhood public middle school, they will provide an IEP for accomodations for his vision, his ADHD and his dysgraphia, but that's all. No help, just accomodations.
We decided to end the process. We realize that we could take the city to court, and that if we were persistent enough, they would probably fork over money to make us go away. But we both feel that it would be unethical to sue an already financially depleted system, one that can only come up with 1 hour a month for Occupational Therapy for even its neediest students, so that our son can get the optimal education we want for him.
The whole thing has really made me sad. I feel so bad for the kids trapped by lack of means in a system that can't help them, and probably hinders them. I feel bad that the education my son is receiving is not available to everyone. The progress he is making currently shows me that these kids can be taught, and can succeed, if the right methods are applied.