Opinion

Taxpayers foot bill for lazy students

Never underestimate the ability of Americans to find creative ways to cheat Uncle Sam out of money. One of the latest scams is for parents to claim that their lazy children suffer from something known as “chronic fatigue syndrome” (CFS) and then demand their children’s public schools provide expensive and extensive tutoring and other special programs. And so far, the scam seems to be working.

A recent article in The Wall Street Journal described the increasing prevalence of CFS and other new “disabilities.” The Journal highlighted the story of one particular female high school student in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania who has problems “remembering assignments, completing homework or even waking up in time for school.” Imagine that — we have a student who has trouble with homework and who prefers to sleep in. Yet, unlike the vast majority of kids who get up anyway, and who work hard at doing their homework despite a desire to watch TV or play sports, the parents of this prima donna have mounted a lengthy campaign to force the high school to make costly accommodations so their daughter can sleep as much as she wants and be offered however many chances she desires to complete assignments.

Chronic fatigue syndrome is not a recognized medical malady, though many are attempting to make it so. Its symptoms are commonplace and include fatigue, headaches and memory lapses. The student described in the Journal article has trouble getting up for school by 8 o’clock in the morning. Her parents convinced the school to accommodate her by pushing the start of her day back to 10 a.m. Yet, she still had problems getting out the door. She is demanding passing grades notwithstanding she is failing.

Other CFS sufferers claim an inability to focus sufficiently to remain in regular classes yet reportedly have no problems focusing on sports and other activities.

The cost to American taxpayers, because of federal laws mandating that schools receiving public monies accommodate pretty much any physical or mental problem exhibited or claimed by students or parents, is huge.

The Wall Street Journal article quotes Nate Levenson, an education expert, who notes that “special education’s share of school budgets has jumped to an average of 21% in 2005, from just 4% in 1970.” The average cost of educating a special needs student is $17,000, which is, according to Levenson, “roughly double the figure for other pupils.”

The debate over the extent to which schools should be forced to care for mentally or physically disabled students is a legitimate debate. The question of forcing these public entities to waste their time and our money accommodating students who are either too lazy to attend classes or unwilling to compete academically, is neither a legitimate policy question nor a legitimate legal issue. If students don’t want to get up in the morning and their parents lack the parental control and responsibility to make them, then the answer is simple — the students receive an “F.” Sooner or later, one suspects, the energy level for most of these malingerers will pick up.

Bob Barr represented Georgia’s Seventh District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. He provides regular commentary to Daily Caller readers.