California Department of Education Refuses to Provide Free Education to Child Prodigy

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While offering a free and equal education to special education and regular students, the CDE refuses to provide a free education to a 14-year-old highly gifted child. The CDE is refusing to pay for his education at UCLA, even though it is alleged that this is the only suitable education for him.

The Pro-Family Law Center's lawyers are handling a unique Sacramento Superior Court case (No. 04AS00459) that could result in the creation of judicial vouchers for California's highly gifted children. However, the California Department of Education is now strenuously opposing the idea of a voucher for a 14-year-old child now attending UCLA, even though the facts of the case suggest that this might be the only suitable education for a highly gifted child such as the plaintiff.

Levi Levy, the child-plaintiff, began college at age 7. He passed the California High School Proficiency Exam at age 9, and began attending UCLA in January 2004. His mother, single and working, is not able to continue paying full cost for a suitable education for her child. While other California children, of the plaintiff's same age, are being provided a state-funded education, the CDE refuses to extend the same to this child, and, presumably, other similarly gifted children.

According to PFLC's attorneys (Lively & Ackerman of Temecula, CA), the California Constitution and related federal judicial decisions require that an education, "suitable" to the specific needs of each child, must be provided by the State of California. Any failure to provide a suitable education is alleged to be a violation of the federal Equal Protection Clause. Moreover, it is also claimed that the truancy laws require Levy to be in attendance at a publicly funded school until he is 16 years of age, regardless of his highly gifted status.

In papers recently filed by the CDE, it was stated that "[Plaintiffs are] attempting to obtain the functional equivalent of a voucher for her son's university-level education ..." The CDE claims that they do not owe a "constitutional duty" to the child in this case.

PFLC attorney Richard D. Ackerman has responded to these claims by stating, "The one size fits all approach to education is failing the plaintiff in this case. At some point in time, we are going to have to realize that it is intellectual torture to require a highly gifted child to maintain compulsory attendance in a failing system that doesn't even work for average students. At a bare minimum, the CDE ought to be required to fund Levi's education to the same monetary level as provided on a per-student basis for every other child in the public schools, which happens to be between six and seven thousand dollars a head."

This case will likely end up being appealed all the way to the United States Supreme Court, regardless of who comes out the victor in this important case. According to Ackerman, "This case has the potential to overhaul a failing educational system, and may open the doors to a truly suitable education for each child within the public school system." More information on this case can be found at http://www.highlygifted.org.

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Richard Ackerman
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