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Omaha district cuts special ed services for private students

November 11, 2018

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The Omaha Public Schools district has curtailed special education services for some private school children who live outside the district, a move that’s led to criticism from parents.

The Omaha district this school year reduced the type of special education services available to nonresident private school students, the Omaha World-Herald reported. The district will now only provide occupational and physical therapy to nonresident students.

The move comes after the district was forced to cut nearly $30 million from its budget earlier this year.

Private schools don’t fall under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, receive special education funding or are required to provide special education services. But public school districts must spend a portion of federal special education funding toward students who attend private schools, which applies to both those living within and outside of the district.

District officials said they were previously providing services beyond what’s required by law.

OPS spokeswoman Monique Farmer said the district needs to be efficient with its spending.

Quinn Fitzpatrick, a first-grader at St. Margaret Mary Catholic School, is among the students affected by the decision. Quinn has trouble hearing so-called “soft sounds” and the Omaha district had helped pay for his speech therapist and microphone system to amplify his teacher’s voice.

Quinn and his family live within the Westside district’s boundaries, but his school is within Omaha’s district.

Quinn’s parents found out just days before school started in August that the district wouldn’t cover his speech therapy services any longer.

“It was definitely a punch in the gut,” said Quinn’s mother, Brooke Fitzpatrick.

The Fitzpatricks said the timing of the notice gave parents and schools little time to figure out alternative arrangements.

“If they had, we could have made plans to move or otherwise deal with the change before it was right upon us,” said Quinn’s father, Jeremy Fitzpatrick. “We weren’t given that chance.”

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Information from: Omaha World-Herald, http://www.omaha.com

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