The Supreme Court agreed Friday to decide whether parents who win lawsuits over their children's special education are entitled to fees to pay expert witnesses.

The case involves an appeal of a lower court's award of $8,650 to an expert used by Pearl and Theodore Murphy in their effort to force a New York public school district to pay for their son Joseph's special education at a private school.

At issue is whether the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act authorizes payment of expert fees to parents who win their cases in court.

The act provides grants to states to pay for education of children with disabilities.

Arlington Central School District, which covers the Poughkeepsie area, appealed a 2nd U.S. Court of Appeals decision that affirmed the award of expert fees in the Murphy case. The school district argued that it should not have to pay Joseph Murphy's private school tuition because it had offered him "a free appropriate public education."

The Murphys did not want to send their son to the public school and won tuition reimbursement for the costs of enrolling him in a private school during the 1998-99 and 1999-2000 academic years.

Solicitor General Paul Clement, the Bush administration's lawyer before the high court, urged the justices to hear the appeal to resolve a conflict among several appellate courts over whether the law allows payment of expert fees to the winning side.