If Hairston doesn't need competitive bids, why do parents of special needs children?

February 10, 2011

I wonder if Baltimore County Superintendent Joe A. Hairston thinks of the countless hours, sleepless nights and often thousands of dollars spent by families with children with mental and/or learning disabilities when undergoing the extensive individualized education program (IEP) process to obtain services to educate their special needs children ("Baltimore County schools did not seek competitive bids for software contract," Feb. 9).

Families are expected to put out multiple "bids" for even the most basic of services. Mr. Hairston claims he did not go through the bidding process for EduTrax software to avoid purchasing "one size fits all" software. Often that is exactly what special needs children receive after their "request for proposals" are submitted.

Mr. Hairston defends the no-bid practice because he felt that there was no other product like it. Is the same deference allowed to families whose children could benefit from placement in a private, non-public school uniquely designed to educate their special needs?

Parents, educators and clinicians alike accept that there is a process to put forth proposals for obtaining services for special needs children. Why can't Mr. Hairston accept the same standard for his office's own special needs?

Dr. Stuart R. Varon, Baltimore

The writer is an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

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