School district officials often agonize over how to teach students with severe disabilities. They can pay for the students to attend private schools, where pupils receive more attention in an environment tailored to their needs. Or they can educate the students in public schools, encouraging interaction with peers who aren't disabled.
Faced with continued deep budget cuts, district officials are more often choosing the latter approach – which also happens to be the cheaper choice.
Their actions have drawn praise from some special education advocates who believe students with disabilities often learn best in a mainstream environment. Others say districts are making a mistake that will be tough to reverse.
"They put them in public school, and it's like a huge experiment," said local parent Zoeann Lee. "And then they watch them sink or swim."