Compensatory education is meant to “compensate” a student for education he or she did not receive when a school district fails to provide a meaningful education from which the student benefits.
Hearing officers and State Review Officers have held that compensatory education may be awarded to a child when the school district has acted in such a way that the child was denied a free and appropriate public education (“FAPE”). But at the same time it has been held that if the child is still eligible for special education he is not entitled to compensatory education. In New York eligibility lasts until the child obtains a high school diploma or reaches the age of 21 whichever comes first. Under this approach a 5th grade student who did not receive a FAPE would not be entitled to compensatory education.
In what is obviously an attempt to get around this restriction in New York Hearing officers and State Review Officers have, however, required school districts to provide “additional services” sometimes referred to as “make-up services” even when the student is still entitled to special education. This really amounts to compensatory education by another name. The obvious question is if the child is still eligible for and would receive special education, what’s the big deal. It is, in fact, a big deal.
Suppose the school district dismally failed the student in physical therapy (PT). Normally let’s assume that this child would be entitled to three hours of PT in special ed. If he is awarded “additional services” he will not be limited to three hours. Over and above this he will get “additional” hours as “compensation” for what was previously denied to the student.