A bill in the Assembly that would change the special-education placement process now has a companion bill in the Senate.
And the opposition is getting louder.
As we’ve written, the Assembly bill is a revamped take on a bill that was vetoed by Gov. Cuomo last year—which would have made it easier for parents to get students into private schools at taxpayer expense.
These bills are primarily being pushed by Hasidic and other ultra-Orthodox Jewish groups that would like special-education students from their communities to be able to attend religious schools. They say that it’s painful for parents from those communities to resist a special education process that—by law—steers students toward the most mainstream, public school setting as possible.
The new Senate bill is sponsored by Sen. Simcha Felder, D-Brooklyn.
Public-school advocates say that new bills, like last year’s bills, would go against federal law and could cost school districts a bundle.
A memo from the NYS School Boards Association says:
In their current form, both bills still seek to “provide for a special education placement process that will help ensure students with disabilities are placed in the appropriate programs and receive resolution of their impartial due process hearing and tuition reimbursement in a timely manner.” However, they both contain provisions that would effectuate the opposite result. They also present inconsistencies with basic requirements of the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) that actually diminish parental and school district rights guaranteed thereunder. As a result, they continue to expose the State to the loss of critical federal funding at a time when academic achievement expectations for all students is at an all-time high and the availability of financial resources for school districts restricted.
A memo from Judy Wiener, who lobbies on behalf of school districts in the Lower Hudson Valley, includes:
The bill in question has a number of serious flaws, undermining the process of special education placements required by IDEA and therefore threatening the federal funding that helps support the education of students with disabilities.
This bill has the potential to impose still another costly unfunded mandate on our school districts, and furthermore, requires the future continuation of tuition payments for unilateral placements that could benefit private school education with public funds.
We strongly oppose this bill, and we have already been in contact with all the Lower Hudson legislators to urge a NO VOTE if the bill comes up for a vote before the end of this week.