Student Note on Cost and LRE Under IDEA
New on Westlaw: Ashley Oliver, Note, Should Special Education Have a Price Tag? A New Reasonableness Standard for Cost, 83 Denv. U. L. Rev. 763 (2006). From the introduction:
The increasing cost of educating disabled children is one of the most pressing concerns among educators today. According to the most recent national study, the total spending on special education students was $50.0 billion compared to only $27.3 billion for regular education during academic year 1999- 2000. Another study reported the national average of per pupil expenditures for special education as $12,525, which was ninety-one percent more than the general education population per pupil expenditure of $6,556. Between 1995 and 2003, the number of students classified as needing special education services jumped from roughly 4.5 million nationwide to approximately 6.3 million, a thirty-eight percent increase.A circuit split exists surrounding the best test to employ when determining the most appropriate classroom placement of a special education student under the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA). One of the most controversial issues surrounding the circuit split concerns if and how the cost of a particular placement to a school district should factor into the decision of which learning environment is most appropriate for the child. This article first provides a brief legislative history of IDEA which has strongly influenced the emergence of the three different circuit tests. Second, this piece describes the evolution of the three tests including their strengths and weaknesses as well as the Tenth Circuit's recent adoption of one of the tests in L.B. ex rel. K.B. v. Nebo School District. Third, it discusses the court's failure in Nebo to articulate practical standards and argues that the Tenth Circuit erred in failing to include cost as one of its factors. Finally, this article proposes a new cost standard for the courts to consider in placing a disabled child in the most suitable learning environment.