NY School District Ask Cuomo to Veto Special Ed Rules

School districts are protesting the proposed changes to how special education children are placed in the state of New York. District representatives have appealed to state Governor Andrew Cuomo to do away with regulations that require schools to take into account students’ socioeconomic background when making placement determinations. They say that the new rules would place too much of a burden on individual schools.

The bill, which was passed by state lawmakers last month, also requires that the decisions on special education placement be reached within 30 days and parents must be reimbursed for private school tuition retroactively if the state goes over the deadline. The Superintendent of Bedford Central Schools Jere Hochman said that with this law, legislators were essentially bringing in a backdoor voucher system for students with special needs.

Hochman said the change could cause public funds to be channeled to private schools because parents of students who are now fully included in public schools parents might opt for the private special education program that complies with the interpretation of considering ‘home environment and family background.’ The language could encourage more placements of students with low-incidence disabilities whose education can be in six figures, he added.

Sixteen separate school districts have signed on to the petition asking Governor Cuomo to veto the bill. The veto call was also echoed by Assemblyman Tom Abinanti, who opposed the bill while it was being considered on the grounds that it funnels state money into schools that segregate their student bodies by religion or sex.

Hochman said the change could cause public funds to be channeled to private schools because parents of students who are now fully included in public schools parents might opt for the private special education program that complies with the interpretation of considering ‘home environment and family background.’ The language could encourage more placements of students with low-incidence disabilities whose education can be in six figures, he added.

But it seems like Abinanti, who is a Democrat, is out of step on this issue with his fellow party members. The legislation enjoyed an equally wide margin on support in the Republican-controlled state Senate, where it passed with a vote of 47-13 and in the Democrat-controlled Legislature, where the final tally was 93-50.

Sheldon Silver, the Assembly Speaker, rejected the opponents’ arguments that the new regulations will present too much of a financial burden. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal he said that he didn’t anticipate that implementing the new rules would be prohibitive for school districts.

Katonah attorney Peter Hoffman said he believed the bill, if passed, would cut down on the number of lawsuits brought by families given the new consideration for family life and cultural circumstances.

“I support the change because the current system leads to litigation that is typically not completed until years after the actual school year in question occurred,” said Hoffman, whose practice focuses on children with disabilities.