A World Without Public Education? Probably not. But things will certainly be different.

When the pandemic first hit, I sat at my computer for 12 hours a day writing blog posts, tweets, and drafts of op-eds for the editors at the top newspapers and journals. Because schools and kids are my thing, I focused on how the school closures were going to really screw up kids and derail the public education system. I have a track record of writing for some big name publications, so I assumed that an editor at one of those publications would bite. 

But none did. I couldn’t find a larger audience for my op-eds. Almost all the editors ignored me. One told me that he liked my piece, but schools were less important than other issues at that time. I did publish one piece in USA Today about how special education kids would suffer without services, but that was it. At that time, anyone who worried about the impact of school closures were labeled “anti-teacher.”

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33 thoughts on “A World Without Public Education? Probably not. But things will certainly be different.

  1. There’s been a kind of assumed commonality of interests between teachers and their organizations and the parents. That’s kind of shot to hell, lately, and partly because of wide divergence in preferred pandemic response – and partly because of the whole CRT trans rights merit admissions to magnet schools parental input etc shitshow which has exposed divergent views about what the role of schools should be. Hard to get Pandora’s box-mates to climb back in….


  2. “I want kids to go to a building where they read books for seven hours a day and talk about those books with people, who are hundred percent in love with books and ideas. Kids who have trouble reading would get extra help. And then everybody would go home.”

    I think that’s the problem with disrupting public education. Different people want fundamentally different thins. My kid basically read seven hours a day and talked about what he read during the pandemic, when there was no school in person. Kids were one of the “natural” readers who learned reading without much instruction.

    What my son got out of being in school was social interaction and sports and an engineering lab and yes, talking about the reading with a broader array of people, but, as he said recently, less knowledgeable people than he normally talks with (i.e. us, his grandparents, . . . ).


    1. Have to say the reading books for seven hours a day would have been heaven for me (so long as I was allowed to choose the books, I rarely enjoyed the set texts we had).

      However, it would be the definition of hell for Mr 14, who loathes reading. It’s a battle to get him to read the (carefully curated for maximum interest) newspaper article I send him once a day (requirement for his Social Studies class)

      I think that emphasis on the basics (reading, writing, maths) is important – especially for the left-behind-by-the-pandemic kids. But school also has to be fun for them – it’s the social interaction and the fun things (like band, choir, drama, art, cheerleading, sport, robotics, even chess) which make them want to come (and for many) endure the learning.


  3. So much to unpack here. Regarding

    I want kids to go to a building where they read books for seven hours a day and talk about those books with people, who are hundred percent in love with books and ideas. Kids who have trouble reading would get extra help. And then everybody would go home. Other stuff, like clubs and sports and drama and fancy programs, can happen privately or through the town services.

    My oldest kid is the poster child for this. He took 14 AP courses and a slew of other honors courses , some of which were more rigorous and challenging than the APs, only getting 5 Bs. And, although he did academic team and marching band, he also did a bunch of outside stuff, TAing at a summer GT program (although this was associated with the public school system), volunteering with the local historical society, playing club soccer (because he was far from good enough to make the HS team), volunteering for a local good government PAC, community music, etc. Your idea of the ideal academy is tailor-made for him.

    Our younger is autistic with a 504 and yet is on course to do even better academically. But the extracurriculars he gets from school are really important. For instance, he is on the school robotics team and in the band. There are also community robotics groups and community music but they are very cliquish and insular. Having the team and the band at the school means that they essentially have to let him participate. He is also into RPGs and managed to convince his French teacher (who likes RPGs and him) to sponsor an RPG club for him and some other ND kids at the school. Again, this would be harder to do in the community.

    But anyway. Extracurriculars. Just before the pandemic, in winter 2019-20, the school board proposed a budget that cut a bunch of money from the G/T and AP programs and diverted it to the special ed budget. Which is already the largest single line item in our budget, but could legitimately use more because these services are so expensive. Which, as an aside, is concrete evidence that putting more into special ed doesn’t mean hard choices about what to cut elsewhere. I’m not saying these choices shouldn’t be made (although I am fairly skeptical about a lot of the “ADHD” diagnoses) but it is a lie to say that we can fund all the special ed needs without cutting severely somewhere else.

    And, this is why schools fight private placements so hard. Each one means several AP courses or modern language classes or computer science courses are cut for 20-25 students each. I can blame school districts for being utilitarians but this is very much a John Stuart Mill sort of decision. (FWIW, sped>>unlimited G/T needs, so this is usually the right decision, but dealing with 25 dissatisfied parents is harder than dealing with one.)

    So, pre-covid, I asked the question about why they didn’t take an axe to the athletic budgets instead. And, the people who were in the know pushed back hard. Not because our county is a county obsessed with sports. We’re not one of those anti-intellectual rural school systems where they hire math teachers who barely know algebra because they can also coach the girls’ basketball team. (And then blame the “elites” because their kids are unprepared to navigate college or anywhere else outside their county boundaries.) No, they were firm about the need for athletics because for many kids, sports (or band or drama) are the only reason they show up past grade nine and keep their grades up. They don’t love a life of the mind or dream about a STEM career. If it wasn’t for athletics they would check out entirely. The extracurriculars are what keeps them in school and on a path to a diploma.

    And we saw this during the pandemic. For schools that cancelled in-person things and went virtual, a lot of the kids that completely checked out and stopped attending (and even had suicidal ideations) were the ones for whom the sports and music and drama were cancelled. They didn’t care about the academics much to begin with but had the entire reason for attending school torn away. That’s why when our system went back in-person at the end of the 2020-21 year, the order of return was sped kids first and then resuming athletics second. And this was almost certainly a data-driven decision (the district knew who was there and who wasn’t) and probably the correct decision.

    But even if you set up your ideal life-of-the-mind academy (which does exist in our sibling county as a set of magnet schools) you still have to staff it…


  4. Suppose you have your life-of-the-mind/no football team/no robotics academy. Which, like I said, exists in our sibling county. Then you have to get teachers who will staff it. And this is directly in opposition to busting unions and regarding teachers as menial daycare workers even more than they already are.

    A couple of examples may suffice. Our school’s best math teacher, in collaboration with another teacher at a different HS, designed a college-level discrete math course. Which is amazing. She is also a licensed realtor and during the pandemic, when she was told to come back in-person third quarter 2020-21, decided that she could bathe in a sea of covid for seven hours a day or take a leave of absence and go sell more overpriced houses virtually. She took door number two. And, fortunately she is back now but stripping her of her union and telling her she is nothing but a glorified daycare employee wouldn’t get her back in the door. Instead, she would say “Seeya” and be replaced with a remedial algebra type who can coach basketball.

    Or, you have said that every student should take computer science starting in grade school. Great. I disagree, but it wouldn’t hurt too bad to try it. But who is going to staff it. Anyone who is moderately qualified to do so can actually go program for more money than any school district is willing to pay them. Removing their stature and protection and unions will not convince any decent CS teachers to stick around. In our own high school we had three teachers, two good and one terrible. During the pandemic one of the good ones and the terrible one quit to go do virtual programming for a crapload more cash and were replaced by two even less competent ones. Busting the unions and simultaneously mandating universal programming classes will just lead to terrible programming classes taught by incompetent idiots.

    Busting the unions may make Betsy DeVos and her army of charter school/privatization advocates happy but it won’t get you what you want.


    1. Seattle’s “Downtown school” (private) is built on a model similar to what Laura describes: https://www.downtownschoolseattle.org/fast-facts

      Tuition $20K per year, which near the per student funding in WA state according to googling: 16-17K (I never know what to make of the per student funding in public schools, because I don’t know what it includes — federal funds, state funds, foundation funds, building funds, . . . .).

      The Downtown school “poached” teachers from other private schools by offering higher salaries (with higher workloads, including administrative jobs, I think at the range of 120-130K for experienced teachers). The 20K price point drove the budget, which the developers of the school thought was affordable at the middle household income level in our area, There might have been some poaching from public schools as well, but our union supported teachers are reasonably paid (at this point) and were harder to poach.


  5. Laura wrote, ““I want kids to go to a building where they read books for seven hours a day and talk about those books with people, who are hundred percent in love with books and ideas. Kids who have trouble reading would get extra help. And then everybody would go home.”

    The first part of that is a lot like my kids’ private classical school. It’s not all day, but it definitely describes about 1/3 or 1/2 of the day. Other than that, there’s their STEM courses, arts, PE, woodshop, and some other electives. Not being a massive public high school, there are maybe half a dozen AP courses total that are available, and they’re not all available every year. But it’s adequate. The kids read a lot of literature (Augustine’s Confessions, Dante’s Inferno and Purgatorio, Eli Wiesel’s Night, a ton of Shakespeare) and it’s very good for them. Their lit and history classes are generally synced up together, so they are studying ancient history at the same time as ancient literature, medieval lit at the same time as medieval history, etc.

    Both of our kids who have had high school experience did well in the environment. Our college girl has been more of a humanities kid than her high school brother. Our STEM-oriented high school boy has had it up to here with literature at this point (“What is this good for?”), but he is really into the history.

    We wound up doing a certain amount of outside extracurriculars for our oldest kid, mostly music, as she wasn’t into sports, and sports was what school had to offer. We’ve done fewer outside extracurriculars for our middle kid, as he is into sports.

    In general, the more stuff that is available at school or organized by the school, the more streamlined life is. In our family, we believe strongly in keeping things simple and that you get 80% of the results with 20% of the effort. Also, as we say in our family, “Adequate is good enough!” Some people hate that expression, but that is literally the meaning of the word “adequate.”

    I also believe that one of the great values of high school is that it allows kids to try a lot of different things in a relatively low-cost, low-risk environment, both classes and extracurriculars. The good/bad thing about higher ed is that as you go along, you have to narrow down and specialize, but at the high school level, you can try everything.


    1. Our kids’ private high school in Central Texas is now about $11k a year.

      We’re losing our physics/computer science teacher, though, and I have no idea how we’re going to replace him. I always figured that he could easily make twice as much outside, and he’s finally gone off to seek his fortune.

      The (more) fancy pants private school across town is $15k a year, but they may have more scholarships.


  6. We are going to have to some very tough choices soon. I am not exaggerating the budget woes, along with the massive needs, in schools right now. I watched the board of ed meeting in our town last night. Teachers and parents alike were at the microphone talking about they need more support staff. Schools aren’t even functioning at their most basic level right now.

    The press is covering the 1% of school board wars regarding culture war stuff. But 99% of the issues right now are just about keeping the lights on and preventing the kids from killing each other.

    So, we’re going to have to make choices. Yes, some will want to cut back on special ed stuff, but folks like me are going to hire lawyers and make things VERY painful for schools.

    So, idk what people want to cut: sports, AP clubs, robotics, band, foreign languages? Cuts are going to have to happen. Somebody will have to make the tough choices. Still wondering if I should run for the school board and be the one to make those choices.


    1. We are going to have to some very tough choices soon. I am not exaggerating the budget woes, along with the massive needs, in schools right now.

      What budget woes? This is not universal. In our county, the substantial but not catastrophic cuts that were proposed before the pandemic did not materialize and it is unclear whether they will come back. The current budget is in between the school board and the county and there are some rumblings that the county won’t completely fulfill the board request but nobody really knows yet what will happen.

      In any case, our county appears to be bolstered by corona school funds and massive revenues from property taxes due to (mostly accurate) house valuations going through the roof. There is annealing built into the system to insulate existing homeowners from sudden increases but new buyers have to (legitimately) pay the full assessment.

      If you are in a system where there is a tax revolt the story might be different but the voters in our county are smart enough (or have been so far) to tie their home valuations to the quality of the schools and realize that voting to starve the schools is tantamount to voting to slash their own home value by double digits percentages.


    2. So, we’re going to have to make choices. Yes, some will want to cut back on special ed stuff, but folks like me are going to hire lawyers and make things VERY painful for schools.

      So, idk what people want to cut: sports, AP clubs, robotics, band, foreign languages? Cuts are going to have to happen. Somebody will have to make the tough choices.

      I don’t think our district, at least, is going to cut back on sped, but they will certainly continue to hold a very hard line on what they will provide.

      Our own experience is a case in point. When we lived in England our autistic son had a 504-equivalent plan in the community schools. We were in the Alabama part of England, so the schools were dirt poor but were very creative about what they did with no resources. However, when we moved back to the US to our very affluent district we were met with a solid wall of resistance involving services. Basically, their line was that since our son was performing at grade level or above, no services were mandated.

      Fortunately, his fourth grade teachers noticed that he could be doing much better with just some no or low cost accommodations. By being creative (essentially, “grading to rule” and not giving him the usual slack that would be extended to other kids) they were able to “demonstrate” that he was working below grade level and get him a 504. The school was OK with this because (a) it cost them no money and (b) enabled him to move into the G/T track (where he is capable of doing the work) which makes them look better. However, if we had asked for anything that required an IEP (that is, for them to spend money) it would have been a multi-year battle and, probably in the end, futile, since he *is* capable of on-grade work.

      Still, the social and executive function stuff, which is really what he needs help with, is not dealt with (for us) through the schools at all, aside from some 504 accommodations for group work and note-taking in class. We have had to pursue private therapy for that, which is, IMO, reasonable for someone in our income bracket. The schools have given us what he needs to succeed at academics and the rest is on us.

      And this is what it is going to look like going forward in our district, certainly, but probably in many others as well. If a kid is capable of meeting the state standards then the school system will fight tooth and nail to prevent expensive services and, certainly, not private placements. In our district, there is a sped school that one has to transfer to first and, from what I understand, it is very difficult to get a private placement out of there if that school is capable of providing the requisite services, even if it at a level that a parent would be dissatisfied with. I’ve even heard of parents moving to an adjoining, much poorer, county to a school system that is hapless about providing for special ed kids in the hope that those schools will give up sooner and privately place. This seems like a sketchy way to game the system, but whatever.

      Our high school has a 92% college enrollment rate for students who are not dual-enrolled in the vocational institute we have. There are going to have to be multiple lawsuits before anything happens that will interfere with college readiness features (which means APs and extracurriculars) because that is why people move to our district in the first place.


      1. “We were in the Alabama part of England”

        I have to ask… which part of England is this? I’m guessing maybe W/NW part of England?

        Also, “grading to rule” – what do you mean by this?


      2. We lived in the North. Yorkshire, to be precise.

        “Grading to rule” meant that the teachers would evaluate his work strictly, and not cut him slack the way they would for other fourth graders, even if it was clear that he knew what he was doing and was just technically incorrect.


  7. I don’t see the budget woes in our district yet, though I do believe you that they are coming. The district backtracked on the bell time change to tiers after a parent outcry, which means money will have to come from somewhere else for transportation.

    Our area continues to be more expensive and teachers continue to be in high demand. Here are my cynical takes on how the money is going to be balanced:

    1) the left behinds are going to continue to be left behind. Without a mandate/law of some sort, I think kids reading 2 grades behind are not going to get the intensive services they need, unless they are classified as special needs and get rights through that classification.

    2) will more kids get special needs status? maybe. And, in our state, the poor left behind kids are being given extra access to legal representation, so maybe some of the poor left behind kids will also enter the special needs rights system.

    3) there will be more litigation over expensive special needs and fewer expensive settlements. Now, I think there is an incentive for expensive secret settlements for the parent who knows their child’s rights and fights for them, to make that parent go away. I don’t know how the courts will fall on those decisions when they actually go to court. There’s still legal interpretation (and facts) around the meaning of “appropriate” in the FAPE law. Of course, students who already have an IEP and weren’t provided the services in them will have pretty strong cases and will cost money. I don’t know how this will affect budgets.

    4) even in our district, we’re seeing the loss of languages as a concrete cut (latin will now be offered only online, and I’m not sure if students will be able to start it).

    5) sports and extracurriculars will become more fee based, with parents paying, We have our fields already and have passed levies for building improvements that can’t be used for operating expenses, so we wont lose the construction. But, I can imagine other districts will loose their buildings/fields (buildings, too, unless the state comes up with funding for them).

    6) more teachers without certificates? I think this will depend on the state. I think hiring teachers is going to be a struggle, and with the budget battle between teachers, taxpayers, left-behinds, special needs, and the affluents, the weakest group is the left-behinds. The sports/extracurricular/foreign language/AP parents have advocates; the special needs students have the law (when effectively wielded). Taxpayers have their votes and teachers have their unions (in some states) and, their willingness to walk away.


  8. I think CS teachers have become unicorns. I’m seeing schools relying on canned curricula with facilitators (who are following the script, and, maybe, that will work well enough) and, in lower grades, people who know how to use computers and not CS teachers. There’s no way that any real CS is going to be actually *taught* in elementary school though some students might get access to resources that allow them to be “natural” programmers as access to books worked for “natural” readers.


  9. I don’t know the answer. I think everyone has demands to make on the public system, however I don’t think the system can satisfy everyone at the same time. I am so happy I don’t have any kids in the K-12 system right now.

    From what I’ve learned as a parent, I do not think that consolidating schools into ever larger schools improves the experience for all students. If a school has, let’s say, 6,000 students and a killer moot court team, that might be a step back for the student body as a whole, as placement in special extracurriculars tends to become very competitive. The 20 kids on the team might be happy, but the 60 kids who weren’t chosen may not have an alternative.

    Fancy extracurriculars are something schools like to boast about, but they can drain resources that might be spent in better ways.

    For example, our former school system had excellent extracurricular sports teams. They should be–the wealthiest parents spent lots of money coaching their children privately throughout their elementary years, so that they would be skilled enough to win spots on the teams. A healthy, athletic kid from a normal family had no chance of winning a spot. So the sports resources were spent for the benefit of kids whose families have vacation homes on Hawaii, rather than the kids whose families never take a vacation.

    I would prefer for public schools to prioritize sports with no cut teams of healthy activities that do not require expensive coaching, such as cross country. Or do what some European countries do, which is that schools do academics and PE. They do not do extracurriculars–that’s for the parents to arrange, if they care to do it.


  10. back in the day, for students not book inclined, there was auto shop, wood shop, metal shop, and electronics shop. students had opportunities to learn skills. this apparently is totally lost. students not academically inclined can achieve if given opportunity.


    1. Our school district does have non-academic courses for students, but through a summer skills center:
      automotive technology, health, construction trades, culinary arts, EMT, maritime vessels operation, . . . . and they have community college courses and certificates. Some of these programs are expensive and don’t come out well on hiring/income statistics (Laura’s links previously showed negative data for income improvement after culinary certificates at colleges). The woodworking, maritime, and culinary program at CC’s are constantly at threat of being closed (I think they are also relatively expensive, compared to programs that are run on a computer).

      I think there’s also a problem that some of those “non-academic” programs require significant academic skills (though not necessarily interest; accounting, reading, tech) and other soft skills (people management, executive function, organizing, . . . .) and more so than they did before. And, I think many people don’t find those jobs desirable enough for the training and physical work they demand for the compensation.

      I don’t think there are any simple school-based solutions and that there are equally important changes that need to be made society wide.


  11. I think the bigger problem here is to imagine that public schools (which is often one of our strongest government contacts as parents) can solve all the problems. They can’t, and they especially can’t when the needs are so diverse, as the conflict between “read books” all day and work in an “electrical shop” all day shows.

    And, that’s before all of the other supports and hopes people have, including making friends, building community, non academic activities (sports, theater, music, art), providing food, health care and other physical needs, emotional support, behavioral supports, physical care, . . . . The list is endless, and, it is being asked for without the required resources.


    1. Yeah, very related to my newsletter from this week. But outside of schools, there is NOTHING for young people, especially for the most vulnerable. Maybe if we strip schools down to their most basic service – math, reading, social science, science – and then make outside groups cover the rest. idk.


    2. I agree that there are limited opportunities for children with disabilities outside schools (potentially at least partially because schools are *required* to provide some services through FAPE while there are more limited protections outside it). My elder has worked/volunteered in a community summer camp that at least allows students with disabilities to sign up, including some who are non-verbal. The program is communicated enough that some students on the spectrum travel internationally for it. But, seeing it from an insider’s view, the support provided is haphazard. For example, my <18 kid was given far more responsibility for managing behaviors than I thought appropriate (she's good at it, but, she was a child and really not trained).

      I think that the "stripped down" budget that you imagine (what would it exclude? sports, we all seem to be considering, but also theater, music, arts, foreign languages, advanced math, AP classes?). And, I also think that this new version of school wouldn't cost much less. Having teachers who actually know how to teach children to read is not going to be cheap. Having teachers who can and want to teach students who have behavior problems, learning disabilities and other challenges to read is not going to be inexpensive.

      As with health care, I do not see a solution that does not require us to be willing to devote a significant larger portion of our resources to these problems and that requires impacts on the winner take all economy including workers rights, taxation (of both business & individuals), and less money for all of us to spend, except the poor.


  12. I’m firmly convinced that workforce training (i.e. CS, construction, . . . .) should be done with the support of those who are doing the hiring, including paying for the training. If TMobile needs fullstack developers, they should be paying for their training (and, in our district, there is a HS/community college program that does that, with paid nternships over the summer and the possibility of hires if the program is completed).

    I don’t think the small business model of automotive repair & restaurants can pay, but maybe Starbucks? Starbucks has some innovative programs, including a program for refugee employment.


    1. If the private sector is forced to provide training for workers, then that’s cool, but I think we need a whole lot more than that. NJ does have a department that helps people with disabilities find job and trains them, but the department is badly funded and overwhelmed. There is a system in place, but it just needs more resources. That’s an easy (ish) fix.


      1. There is a system in place, but it just needs more resources. That’s an easy (ish) fix.

        And this is consonant with your “cuts are coming and they are inevitable” narrative above, how? Easy and impossible seem to me to be two mutually exclusive states, but what do I know?


      2. I meant “easy” only in that we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. The mechanisms for this support are in place. Those mechanisms need to funded and run by competent people. Sure, that’s still a big ask, but it’s better than starting from scratch.


      3. Jay – I’ve been meaning to reply to a comment that you made earlier in the week about your son and how you hired an outside consultant to help him with executive function skills. I’ll do it here and hope that you see it.

        We have paid quite a bit out-of-pocket for Ian’s therapy over the years. I actually know the exact amount — $84,000 in the past ten years. Why do I know this number? Let’s just say it’s related to a lawsuit. But schools are supposed to pay for “related” services – like speech, executive functioning, behavior, physical, and so on. They don’t want to, but they must do it according to federal law. Disabled people really need those therapies, which aren’t covered by many insurance policies.

        Our school district has done almost nothing for Ian’s autistic related issues over the past ten year. We paid for what we could, but he really needed much more intensive help. While Ian has a high IQ and no executive function issues, he is extremely inappropriate. He has the maturity of an 11-year old. I am hoping that if we put him an extremely intensive ABA-based autism school for a year or two, then they can help him overcome those quirks. He can take college classes in the evening. If we don’t smooth out his rough edges, he has no hope of getting a college degree, finding a partner, or holding a job. He will live with us until we die. That thought scares the shit of me. I’m toying with the idea of buying a dairy farm, so he will have something to do with his life.

        So, yeah, my kid is expensive, especially because he is dual exceptional. Schools don’t have enough students like him, who could be put in one room and then given a good program. And even in the private spare, there isn’t a whole lot to help him and what exists is very expensive. It is totally rational, and even understandable, for school districts to try to ignore problems like my kid. But it’s my job to use every resource at my disposal to get them to help us out.


      4. Jay – I’ve been meaning to reply to a comment that you made earlier in the week about your son and how you hired an outside consultant to help him with executive function skills. I’ll do it here and hope that you see it…

        OK, so yes I did see this. And yes, I do have thoughts. But the most important thought I have is that, despite the extent to which you have written about your own situation, I am far from qualified to know what you, yourself, should do and what services your school is obliged to provide. That said, I do have definite opinions about what *my* school district should provide *my* kid, who should provide theraputic services for autistic and other kids, and what society is obliged to provide in general to well-off upper middle class families like mine.

        In my situation, what my school is obliged to do would seem to revolve around what, exactly, FAPE means. Our school district has, at least to the extent that I have interacted with the people who decide these things, defined this as students being able to access general educational services and make progress. In our case, the 504 accommodations they have provided have allowed our son to take a full slate of AP and G/T classes with mostly straight A’s.

        Am I supposed to go back to them and say “that’s not enough” because they aren’t providing social skills groups that would allow him to interact with people better or executive function therapy to get him better organized and allow him to at least feign having a modicum of common sense? It would seem to me that, at least in my case, they are doing what they need to be doing to allow him to succeed academically. More than enough, actually, because if they left him to his own devices he would be working adequately (if miserably) at on-grade level, passing the state exams, and making progress towards graduation. I could not meaningfully counter any argument they might make that they are not providing an “appropriate” education.

        This does raise the question of what FAPE actually means. If a student is able to access the general curriculum and satisfy the graduation requirements is that enough? If not, what is enough? I have no definitive answer in my own mind and, as far as I can tell, the courts have not fully adjudicated this either. There are a number of parents in our system who routinely shell out thousands of dollars a year in tutoring. Not because their kids are ND, but because they are 95 IQ mediocrities who correctly belong in the lower half of the on-grade courses, but whose parents conflate having money with good genetics and believe that little Billy or Susie are special snowflakes who should be in the G/T courses with the rest of their social peers, and require several hours a week of individual tutoring to keep up with the work. I would be extraordinarily averse to any definition of FAPE that allowed these parents to acquire some BS ADHD diagnosis and require the schools to reimburse for this tutoring.

        As to where these services to live, that is my main gripe. I’ve spent most of my energy that I involve with being aggravated directed not at the schools but at the health insurance providers. This is primarily a medical/psychological issue and will not cease to be one when our son is 21. It should also not be solved by resorting to locally funded institutions. By pushing this all onto the schools we have allowed the people who really should be coordinating and providing these services a free pass. I want this to be a healthcare and social services issue and the solutions provided to be healthcare and social services solutions.

        Is there no role for the schools? Of course there is. I would prefer an integrated approach like we had in the UK, where our (private, not NHS) provider went into the schools for observation and coordination. This worked best for us *and* the schools.

        Finally, the question arises as to whether I should resent having to spend this extra money for outside therapy, aside from being annoyed at having to fight with the insurance companies to get services that I believe I have already paid for. What, exactly, am I entitled to? In my case, I have this money and using it to provide for my family seems like the best use I could possibly have for it. If I didn’t spend it on this, what would I buy? The kitchen remodel that we want? More and better vacations? Eating out more often? Newer and flashier cars? Having to make choices in these areas is what this other expenditure is displacing.

        Am I supposed to go to our school and say “Even though you are providing enough support that my kid is on track to go to college, you need to cut some AP classes or some arts programs or some athletics so that I will have more disposable income to take another vacation?” In my own situation, I am *not* going to have that conversation, even if I believed (which I do not) that I am technically entitled to do so. Society has not abandoned me or people of my demographic. It has taken care of me very well and I am not going to ask for more things that I do not absolutely need at the expense of others who probably need it more.


    2. Really, more resources is an easy fix? I see it as the crux of most of our problems, and unwillingness to contribute to the common good, especially when we see no personal benefit (as I wouldn’t for improving the disability placement system — I am unconvinced that such a system would be cost effective on market terms).


      1. I am unconvinced that such a system would be cost effective on market terms

        There are, of course, reasons to do things that are not utilitarian. We don’t eat children or keep slaves, no matter how favorably the cost/benefit analysis falls.


      2. Oh absolutely. I entirely reject simplistic utilitarian arguments and think that we absolutely should support every human. In fact, in alluding to the idea that I don’t think there will be a “win/win market”, but to say we should do it anyway, because of a belief in community support of all of us. I did worry that I was being unclear.

        I am worried about whether the country is willing to come together as a community, more than I have ever before. I am pretty sure that America is *not* broken beyond repair (Michelle Cotton is writing that it is today), but I am deeply worried.

        She writes, “It will be impossible to do anything about guns in this country, at least at a national level, as long as Democrats depend on the cooperation of a party that holds in reserve the possibility of insurrection. ”

        But, I think the bigger problem is that this impacts every decision. Coming together to provide resources and address any issue becomes impossible if one of the parties is holding insurrection in reserve when they disagree.


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