Calif. reminded that federal law trumps its own

Calif. reminded that federal law trumps its own

Calif. reminded that federal law trumps its own

Jewish families and schools are appealing a California law that denies children with disabilities special education funding for private religious schools.

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty argued before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Tuesday that California is violating the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), a federal law intended to ensure that children with disabilities receive an education that meets their unique needs.

It provides federal funding to states, including California, for special education programs in public schools. But since public schools cannot always meet the needs of students with disabilities, federal and state law allows that funding to be used at private schools that can provide this critical support.

Reaves, Nick (Becket) Reaves

"California has said, 'We're going to let all of these different private secular schools participate in this program,'" reports attorney Nick Reaves. "It's actually hundreds of schools that participate in this program, but [they're] not going to let any religious schools participate."

Shalhevet High School and Yavneh Hebrew Academy are Jewish primary and secondary schools that offer an excellent education but are barred from providing families with state-funded special education services under California law. Loffman v. California Department of Education seeks to rectify that.

"California has to follow federal law," Reaves states. "Federal law trumps California law in this situation, and really, what the Supreme Court says about the Constitution is actually the most important. It trumps any other laws as well."

It may be several months before the Ninth Circuit makes a ruling in this case.