“We don’t have an aide (or service or equipment item, etc.) for your child, although we agree that it’s a good idea. Our budget is really tight and we just can’t afford it.”

Recall the Law

The school district must provide a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) for children regardless of cost or funding issues. The school is required to identify building resources to meet the students’ needs.

“Special education means specially designed instruction, at no cost to the parents, to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability.” 300.39(a)

“Public agencies, therefore, must not make placement decisions based on a public agency’s needs or available resources, including budgetary considerations and the ability of the public agency to hire and recruit qualified staff.” comment to 300.116

The Reason

Thinking of supports as only paraprofessionals or aides limits the possibility of other school staff or peers providing help. A willing custodian, librarian, or older student could provide effective support. You can make suggestions for creative solutions, but remember that this is the school’s responsibility. You do not have to raise funds for a needed service. The school must respond to requests with a prior written notice of agreement or refusal.

The Response

“I can appreciate the dilemma that you face in these times when money is tight, but my child needs support. Is there someone who could serve as an aide for at least a part of the day“?

“Could we consider someone else in the building, a custodian, librarian, another student, or a volunteer to work with my child? We can meet in X number of weeks to evaluate the benefits of this option and make further decisions then.”

“It’s really a matter of prioritizing the money that the district does have, and for our conversation today, the issue isn’t about money. It’s about my child’s need for an aide. Since we agree that my child needs an aide, funds need to be found to pay for one. Could that be considered when the school plans its budget for next year?”