Jim Porter: Are gifted students entitled to free college educations?
May 27, 2010
TRUCKEE, Calif. and#8212; Thirteen- year-old Levi Clancy is one gifted young man and#8212; not unlike me. But unlike me, Levi is smart.
Levi attended Santa Monica College when he was seven, passed the California High School Proficiency exam when he was nine, and began attending UCLA when he was 13. Leila Levi (seriously), Leviand#8217;s single mother, cannot afford his education at UCLA, so she sued claiming the California Department of Education is required to pay for Leviand#8217;s college education under California and federal law. (Hey, itand#8217;s a lot less expensive than Santa Clara.)
The trial court ruled against Levi Clancy and Leila Levi. (I mention their interesting names again in case you missed it.)
Article IX of the California Constitution requires a public school system that includes kindergarten, elementary, secondary and technical schools and state colleges. The legislature allocates the funding; however, a free education is only constitutionally protected for grades K-12. There is no constitutional right to a free college education. Nor is there anything in the federal No Child Left Behind Act that requires that K-12 public education meet every studentand#8217;s particularized education needs. No surprise there.
So the Levis lose on their first legal argument.
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Californiaand#8217;s Education Code mandates that and#8220;all individuals with exceptional needs have a right to participate in free appropriate public educationand#8230;and#8221;
Levi claimed that he had exceptional needs, as the standard K-12 education did not meet his unique gifted mind. Indeed it didnand#8217;t. He was out of grammar school before some of us were toilet trained.
However, in California and#8220;individuals with exceptional needsand#8221; is defined as children who have a and#8220;disability,and#8221; including mental retardation, hearing, speech and visual impairments, serious emotional disabilities, orthopedic impairments or other health impairments or specific learning disabilities.
Levi, while exceptional, does not fit within those definitions of individuals with exceptional needs. Strike two for Levi and his mom, Mrs. Levi.
The Court of Appeal acknowledged there is significant debate in the education field regarding the unmet educational needs of gifted and highly gifted children, particularly when children with disabilities are legally entitled to special education and related services.
The Education code allows school boards to and#8220;electand#8221; to provide gifted and talented pupil programs but they are not mandated by California law.
In closing, the Court of Appeal wrote that California school children have a right to a standard, free public K-12 education under the California Constitution and codes, but there is no right to a free college education even if Levi is under 16.
Jim Porter is an attorney with Porter Simon, with offices in Truckee, South Lake Tahoe, Incline Village and Reno. He is a mediator and was the Governor’s appointee to the Fair Political Practices Commission and McPherson Commission, both involving election law and the Political Reform Act. He may be reached at email@example.com or at the firmand#8217;s website http://www.portersimon.com.