You Don’t Always Get What You Pay For: Lessons in Value from Recent Special Ed Hearing Officer Decisions

Volume 30, No. 2

We live in world where things are valued based on their price tag. Before joining Drummond Woodsum I was a public defender in Alaska. One of the things I noticed as a public defender was that my legal services were routinely valued less than those of private attorneys, regardless of the quality of the representation, simply because my services were free. I have seen a similar phenomenon in education; with a presumption that high cost private schools provide a higher quality of education than public schools. In my experience, in both contexts, these presumptions, as a general rule, are false. We have had several big special education due process hearing wins in the past year that both reaffirmed this point for me, and that are a true testament to the quality of the special education services available to students across the state of Maine.

In each of the cases referenced above, parents unilaterally placed their child in a private school and filed for due process under state and federal special education laws seeking reimbursement for expenses related to the private school placement. The requests for reimbursement were significant, ranging from $150,000 to $300,000. In each case, the hearing officer found …To continue reading, visit

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