Archive for June 19th, 2008

Good News for NY Homeschoolers

In March I reported the distressing news that the NY State Board of Regents had announced public special-education services such as speech therapy and occupational therapy would no longer be available to homeschooled students. Private school students, they ruled, would continue to qualify, but not homeschoolers.

Well, it looks like common sense has prevailed. Today the New York State Senate passed a bill reinstating these services to homeschooled children. The Assembly passed the companion bill on Monday. Now all that remains is the governor’s signature.

This is great news. These are public services available through the public schools which ought to be available to all children, not just those enrolled in the schools. Working with the school district to receive these services is not always an easy task, but for some families, for some children, it’s a vitally important option.

I wrote a fair amount at The Lilting House about my family’s (sometimes rocky) experiences with receiving speech therapy and audiology services from our school district for our hard-of-hearing son. I had to learn a lot about navigating the IEP process, and some of the lessons came at a price. (You may recall the one IEP meeting where I was sandbagged by “the team” and had to fight hard to persuade them to agree to what I knew to be the best course of action for my son.) This past year we’ve been very pleased with the way things have worked, and I couldn’t be happier with our current speech therapist and the district’s awesome audiologist.

And not having to drive up to the children’s hospital for these services (where Wonderboy already sees eleven different specialists on a regular basis, and NEVER on the same day) has made a huge practical difference in my family’s quality of life. I run him over to a local elementary school for speech therapy, hearing tests, new ear molds, and such. All these services and supplies (including hearing aid batteries, which aren’t cheap) are provided free of charge by the school district—just as they are, here in California, for every child in the district, whether public-schooled, private-schooled, or homeschooled. Our tax dollars are helping fund these programs.

One of the potential pitfalls we’ve skirted is that once your kid is in, it can be hard to get him out if you decide the services in question are not a good fit, after all. Here in CA, Wonderboy is stuck in the system until he reaches legal kindergarten age. He misses the cutoff for next fall by one week, and ordinarily I’d have been delighted about that: no need to fool with paperwork for him for an extra year. (Not that there’s much paperwork to fool with, here in sunny Cal.) But if I wanted to back out of district-provided services and seek them through the medical venue instead, I’d have a devilish time doing so until he reaches kindy age. At that point, I can simply “enroll” him in our family’s private school (since that’s the option I homeschool under, the private-school provision) and decline any or all district services I might wish to disengage from.

We’re quite satisfied with our current level and quality of service, and I’m content to maintain the status quo next year. But the libertarian in me (Scott says he notices an increasingly large streak, year after year) bristles at being bound to any status quo where my own child is concerned.

But I bristle even more at the notion of services being denied to some children for arbitary or prejudiced reasons, which seemed for a while to be the direction NY was headed. Bravo to the legislature for letting justice prevail. Now sign that baby, Governor.