OSEP Warns CT: Educate ALL Children

Reacting to the decision in Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding, Inc, et al v. Rell, the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) sent a letter to the Connecticut State Department of Education, making it clear that ALL children are entitled to an education.

The plaintiffs in CCEJF filed suit in 2005 to challenge the way Connecticut funds education. After lengthy proceedings, including an interlocutory appeal to the Connecticut Supreme Court, Judge Moukawsher issued his opinion in September 2016. In a far-reaching opinion, Judge Moukawsher took aim at children with special education needs. In particular, he suggested that children with multiple disabilities should not be given an education because, as he sees it, no services would be “appropriate” for children with profound disabilities. The decision set off alarms in the special education community. It is, not surprisingly, now on appeal to the Connecticut Supreme Court.

The decision was so concerning that it prompted OSEP to send a letter to the State Department of Education, reminding it of its obligation to ensure that all children receive an education. “Contrary to the lower court’s view,” OSEP stated, “Connecticut and its school districts may not choose to provide special education and related services only for those students whom local educators believe may ostensibly benefit more from a traditional, elementary or secondary academic program.”

OSEP is right: EVERY child is entitled to an education. While there is no question that Connecticut needs to examine education funding, we should not make the mistake of pitting one group of children against others, creating a Hunger Games of sorts. Instead, we should look at comprehensive reforms to reduce reliance on local property taxes for funding.