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Local Lawmakers Split on Special Ed Legislation

Educators across the state of New York are urging Gov. Andrew Cuomo to veto a bill that would force districts to take home life and cultural environments into account when making special education placements.

New York educators are asking Gov. Andrew Cuomo to veto a bill that would change the way special education placements are made.

Opponents of the measure, Special Education Bill S.7722, point to a number of problems with it, among them placing place financial and administrative burden on schools.

Schools would have to take a student's home life and cultural environment into account when making placement decisions under the bill, passed by state lawmakers last month.

Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee (D-Suffern) voted against the bill.

"While I support the needs of special education students, the legislation will impose financial and legal challenges to our public school districts," Jaffee said. "Therefore, I voted against it."

State Senator David Carlucci (D-Rockland) voted for the bill, but when asked did not express strong support for it.

"Over the past few weeks, I have met individually with many local advocates and concerned residents over the apparent fiscal implications associated with the bill," Carlucci said. "I have expressed these concerns and spoken to the governor's office so that they may be addressed in a thoughtful and balanced approach."

The measure would speed up the placement process and require districts to reimburse parents for tuition payments made by parents to private schools not approved by the state within 30 days. Opponents have called it a voucher system.

The Council of New York Special Education Administrators (CNYSEA) and the Long Island Association of Special Education Administrators (LIASEA) both sent letters to Cuomo outlining their concerns with the bill and asking him to veto it. Copies of both letters are attached to this report.

The CNYSEA letter highlighted the following issues:

  • This legislation places new obligations on Committees on Special Education, not required by federal law.
  • It creates a new standard that is vague and wide open to differing
    interpretations for determining whether a proposed placement is designed to offer a child with a disability in New York a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE).
  • It appears to extend the authority of school boards to enter into agreements to reimburse those parents who can afford the outlay of tuition to no approved private schools in the absence of any amendment to other sections of the law that currently prohibit it.
  • It circumvents a carefully crafted legal process established by federal law to address such claims.

They also claim that the language is too vague, which can create issues in the interpretation of the legislation. They argue that there is already opportunity in the current process to take cultural and family backgrounds of special needs students into account in regards to their placement and that it ignores some existing laws and contradicts others.

The CNYSEA claims that the law "creates a voucher program for parents who can afford to pay private school tuition and wait to receive reimbursement."

The LIASEA also refers to the measure as a voucher program as well as calling it a return to segregation.

"Further, not only are school districts being forced to return to segregation, this new legislation amounts to New York State’s first voucher program," They wrote in the letter to Cuomo. "This voucher program will only serve to benefit the wealthy, as only wealthy parents can afford to pay private, non-approved tuition and await for
reimbursement. As a result of the new legislation, districts will be obligated to consider a student’s cultural background, and therefore his or her religious preferences."

The letter refers to the measure as a "merging of church and state interests" and argues that it circumvents the appeals process mandated on the state and federal level.

The following schools have passed resolutions calling for Cuomo to veto the legislation:

  • Bedford Central Schools
  • Blind Brook-Rye UFSD
  • Brewster CSD
  • Chappaqua CSD
  • Croton-Harmon UFSD
  • Eastchester UFSD
  • Haldane CSD
  • Harrison CSD
  • Katonah-Lewisboro UFSD
  • Lakeland CSD
  • Ossining UFSD
  • Pelham UFSD
  • Pleasantville UFSD
  • Pocantico Hills CSD
  • Putnam/N. Westchester BOCES
  • S. Westchester BOCES
joe kelley July 21, 2012 at 12:23 AM
Cuomo will sign it. That's who he is. He could care less about education. He and the senator need to go come next election.
Andrew July 21, 2012 at 03:08 PM
I don't know why so many are complaining about "Hassids" as being use of the money perhaps to give some public money to their private schools. Fact is, by the Hassids not putting their children in Public Schools, just like the Catholics who send their kids to private Catholic Schools, in fact the Public SAVES ALOT OF MONEY. Public Schools in Rockland spend $20,000 or more per kid. We pay alot less towards kids in Religious Private Schools. So actually even if we gave $5,000 per child to help the Private Schools, we'd come out ahead, vs. the $20,000+ taxpayers must fund on each kid in Public Schools.
Andromachos July 22, 2012 at 03:05 PM
More like 8000 votes, but yeah.
Ryan Buncher July 22, 2012 at 06:33 PM
Folks, please see our Terms of Service and try to keep things civil here. Thank you.
Mike July 22, 2012 at 08:25 PM
Huge difference between the Catholic parents and the Hassidic community though. Catholics when they did send their kids to Catholic schools (not the case anymore) never voted en masse or via block to defeat public school budgets. We paid our tuition and still voted to fund the public schools. I have no problem with Hassidic Community wanting to send their kids to any school they want, but I think it is absolutely awful that they continually defund their local school district.

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