Educating Everyone

A production of  

Appeals Court

When parents and school districts find themselves in conflict over what services a child needs and deserves under the law, there is a process available to help reach agreement. The process can go all the way to a state hearing, though most often things are settled before then. Sean Corcoran talks with a parent who used the appeals process to compel her school district to do what it said it would, but it meant hiring an advocate and an attorney and eventually logging a complaint with the state before her case was settled. Meanwhile, the Bureau of Special Education Appeals, which hears appeal cases, recently was found to be violating state regulations.

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The 10-part special report Educating Everyone: The Struggles and Costs of Special Education in Massachusetts airs weekdays beginning Monday, January 11 at 7:35am on 89.7 WGBH, Boston’s NPR Station for News and Culture. Each episode will be available for online listening the morning of broadcast.


10 families, 10 communities, 10 stories...

35 years it ago it began with the passing of a Federal law designed to meet the highest of expectations; to “mainstream” children with disabilities; to “educate everyone.” Today, the law is viewed as one of the biggest unfunded mandates in US history and a burden on every school district in the country.

Legacy of struggles...

Children with disabilities are confronted with obstacles as they struggle to learn to navigate the world the best they can. Parents struggle with the difficult task of understanding the law and their rights as they advocate for their children in the schools. School districts struggle with the high costs of special education students as the number of such students grow while resources remain severely limited.

Sky-rocketing costs, increased needs, shrinking budgets...

The 1975 federal law promised to chip in 40% of Special Ed costs. But in reality, that share has never reached higher than 18%. Meanwhile in Massachusetts, individual towns bear almost the full burden – with some students costing their districts over $100,000 to educate.

In 1975, ADHD was an unknown medical condition, dyslexia barely understood, autism a rare disease. In the past 20 years alone, autism cases have increased by 6000%.

As the recent recession deepened, tax revenues for towns have shrunk dramatically. Yet the law forbids any town from denying aid to disabled children based on cost.

This series is about these struggles and costs, but it’s also about both how our neighbors and fellow citizens treat each other and those with disabilities, how the law says we must, and what we believe is morally right in our quest to educate everyone.

Produced and edited by Steve Young
Reported by Sean Corcoran and Cathy Corman


Educating Everyone Showtimes

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