Doe v. State of Ohio seeks funding, good outcomes for special ed students
October 29, 2014 / education
In 1993, Ohio Legal Rights Service, now Disability Rights Ohio, joined Doe v. State of Ohio, alleging that funding for special education in Ohio was denying children their federally mandated right to a free and appropriate public education (FAPE). The case was stayed in federal court for many years while broader education funding questions were sorted out in the DeRolph v. Ohio litigation. Now, however, the Doe case is moving forward once again, and DRO and its partners are gathering information to prove their claim that Ohio’s system for funding special education denies students with disabilities a FAPE.
To understand the problems with the funding, it’s important to go back to a 2000 study by the Ohio Coalition for the Education of Children with Disabilities, which recommended a weighted funding system. Children would be placed into one of six categories, with more funding being awarded to support the education of children with more severe disabilities. The state legislature chose to adopt the recommendation, funding the program at 80% initially, with plans to ramp up to 100% over time. Funding has been stalled at 90% for many years.
During the last state budget process, the state claimed that it made changes to the funding system that addressed the problems in the Doe case, but this 90% funding level has not changed. Most telling of the continued funding problems are the calls DRO receives. “We still get calls from parents who need help,” says DRO Director of Advocacy Kerstin Sjoberg-Witt. “School districts tell them that they don’t have the funding or resources to fulfill the services the child needs to be supported at school. If the funding was there, schools wouldn’t make those claims.”
There is also a significant achievement gap between typically developing students and students with disabilities, even if the disability is not cognitive.
“The data clearly show that students with disabilities score lower on tests than those without disabilities,” Sjoberg-Witt points out. “If those students were getting the supports they need in the classroom, their scores should be the same. That’s why we made the request for student data, so we could drill down into that data even further.”
Judge Michael H. Watson recently approved the Ohio Department of Education’s release of the data to DRO.
DRO’s goal for Doe v. State of Ohio is straightforward. “We want to have a system that has enough resources to give kids what they need, and has better educational outcomes. We want the system to serve the students well.”
How You Can Help
DRO is currently collecting stories from parents and guardians about their experiences with the special education system in Ohio. If you have information to share, please call our intake department at 800-282-9181, option 2. Phones are staffed from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays, but callers can leave a message 24 hours a day.