What can you expect from a publicly funded school district?

In Pennsylvania, your district is a publicly funded "agency" whose sole purpose as a "public school system" (per our PA Constitution) is a "thorough and efficient system of public education" (Sec. 14). The State Board of Education creates the details of that education, details which school districts must follow. These 'details' are found in Title 22 of the Pa Code. In Title 22, special education of children with disabilities is found in Chapter 14. Chapter 4 is important to all children, disabled or not. For one, it establishes the purpose of all public education:

"Public education prepares students for adult life by attending to their intellectual and developmental needs and challenging them to achieve at their highest level possible. In conjunction with families and other community institutions, public education prepares students to become self-directed, life-long learners and responsible, involved citizens." [Pa Code 22 § 4.11].

road goingSo, your child's education is not just getting them through the day, year or until they age out or graduate. It is not about "the best". A Pennsylvania education is to prepare them for adulthood-- as citizens-- self-directed.Further, IDEA-- which offers protections for a child with an IEP -- offers even more detail.

Your district school board establishes, with public input; 'properly promulgated policies' that (with a few exceptions) must be administered uniformly to all similarly situated students. If someone tells you "it's our policy", ask them for a copy of it.

To summarize, your district must provide instruction that allows students to meet state standards of knowledge and skills. Your district may add to these standards. Your district must apply properly promulgated policies. They can not arbitrarily make up local policies or practices that have the effect of preventing a child with a disability from enjoying the benefits, privileges and rights of a federal right, such as those under ADA, Section 504 or IDEA. So, be familiar with your school district's board-approved policies, including those in the student handbook. * If you are not provided policies under IDEA, you can always seek to review them through an Open Records Request. Find more info and a standard form at the Web site.


Other important details in Pennsylvana's Education Law (Title 22) that affect your child are: mandatory age of attendance, what activities are considered 'instruction', definition of 'planned instruction' and if you go to a private school or charter school--whether you can expect your district to transport your child there or must transport at your own expense (the 10 mile rule).

That being said, education disputes by other families that have gone to court before now have created 'case law' which adds to the federal regulations, by interpreting the vague parts, sometimes more favorably, sometimes less favorably to children with disabilities. For more on case law, please visit Wrightslaw.com

Other Kinds of Schools

MetroKids 2009 list of private schools specializing in learning differences (pdf)

Pa Dept of Education's List of Approved Private Schools (APS)

Also know there are Licensed Academic Schools, which tend to be behaviorally-focused. Examples include Milestones, and NHS Schools.

Don't forget Charter and Virtual Charter Schools.

There are also private virtual high schools.



    © 2011 Amber Mintz, Non-Attorney Advocate, 610-927-9904- business hours; 9am to 4pm Monday to Friday