Mass emails are flying to inspire opposition to those related bills in the Assembly and Senate that would alter the special-education placement process.
The bills, which we’ve written about a few times, would make it faster and easier for parents to get their children placed in private schools at taxpayer expense. This is important to members of Hasidic and other Orthodox Jewish communities who would like their children with disabilities to be educated in religious school.s
Groups that advocate for public education are aggressively opposing the bills, as they did last year when a somewhat different bill was vetoed by Gov. Cuomo.
We’ve heard and read several interpretations of what the current bills would do. Part of the reason is that the bills have been revised several times.
We spoke earlier this afternoon with Jay Worona, general counsel to the NYS School Boards Association, the go-to guy for lots of groups this week trying to get a handle on the legislation.
He said that as things currently stand, the real issue is this: The legislation would require school districts to reimburse parents for expensive private-school tuition earlier in the appeals process when the district and parents disagree on a placement.
When a parent disagrees with a district’s placement decision, the first step is to go before an impartial hearing. The losing party can then appeal to a state review officer. Then the losing party can appeal to federal court, first to a district court, then to the Court of Appeals, 2nd Circuit.
Right now, Worona said, a district can’t be forced to reimburse tuition payments until the appeals process is concluded. Under the legislation, tuition reimbursement would start if a state review officer agreed with the parent’s placement choice. This would likely mean more “defeats” for districts, resulting in big-money tuition payments.
“What this bill is doing is triggering entitlement for the placements that parents want a lot earlier in the scheme,” Worona said.
There could be action on the Senate bill soon.