The Supreme Court will take up a potentially momentous education case on Wednesday and try to clarify the rights of the nation’s 6.7 million schoolchildren with disabilities.
Long-standing federal law says these children have a right to a “free appropriate public education,” but schools, courts and parents have been divided over what this means in practice.
Does it mean, for example, that a school must merely offer a minimal special program with “some educational benefit” to the child, as a federal appeals court in Denver ruled? Or instead, do these children have a right to “make significant educational progress,” as lawyers for the outgoing Obama administration contend.
The dispute over the proper legal standard goes beyond the classroom and carries a huge price tag for both parents and school districts.
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