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A CADILLAC, NOT A FORD

Special education lawyers who represent families of IEP students wisely manage expectations by cautioning them that IDEA[1] doesn’t require public schools to deliver the optimal educational experience for special ed students, only a program designed to result in those students’ modest progress.The phrase you’ll often here is “IDEA requires the public school to give you a Ford, not a Cadillac.”That low standard, that a district can satisfy federal law simply by delivering “some benefit” to the given student through the written IEP’s implementation, comes from a Supreme Court case called Rowley, whose opinion the late Justice William Rehnquist penned for the Court’s majority in 1982.Less than a year before he heard that case, in which a hearing-impaired student from a suburban New York State district failed in her quest for a sign-language interpreter, Rehnquist said goodbye to a beloved young clerk of his as the latter moved on to join the Reagan Justice Department, a bespectacled, Ha…

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