This comes up all the time: a parent calls upset and dissatisfied with their child’s IEP or public school program. After a discussion and review of the records, numerous violations and deficiencies are apparent, but the parent doesn’t know the relief they want. So we’ll start discussing the availability of private school tuition reimbursement as relief available under the IDEA (20 U.S.C. §1412 (a)(10)(C)(ii)) if certain conditions have been met. While that seems appealing, many parents don’t realize… they have to investigate and select the private school! This requires a fair amount of work. Private schools will want to see a child’s evaluations and records first. You have to find a school that will permit your child to make meaningful progress. In otherwords, you have to find a school that really provides what your child needs. Some schools understand that a parent will be seeking tuition reimbursement and that this can take a while. Others require payment up front. In order to get transportation, many districts require notice to their transportation departments early in the spring and there may be distance limitations. More importantly, the perfect school for your child might not have an available seat if you start looking after March!
So, this is my advice: the moment you think you are dissatisfied with your child’s progress or if you feel the supports or services provided in your child’s IEP are insufficient (and you can’t remedy the issue by talking with the district) or if you feel that the public school class placement is deficient for whatever reason – different types of learners, for example, or you feel that services and supports are not being implemented, start shopping around for alternative private placements. That doesn’t commit you to enrolling your child. By all means, communicate your concerns to your public school – in writing – and meet to try to fix the situation. At the same time, however, start looking at your options, since if you apply to a school and your child is offered a seat, you can always say no and continue educating your child at a public school.