Bloomberg Takes Aim at Special Ed Costs

Monday, February 07, 2011

Mayor Bloomberg called on state legislators Monday to make it harder for special education students to attend private schools at taxpayer expense.

In his testimony before state legislators in Albany on Monday, the mayor said the city spends $100 million for 4,000 students to attend private schools when the public schools can't meet their needs.

Bloomberg said these students should be required to try the public schools before taking legal action. Right now, they can take their case to a special hearing officer before even setting foot inside a public school facility, as long as they've considered a public school option.

"We can provide services to those students at a fraction of that cost," Bloomberg said.

But Kim Sweet, executive director of the group Advocates for Children, said the mayor is exaggerating the added costs of private tuition.

"This particular salvo is aimed at a very easy target that people like to blame, and blame whenever there is a fiscal problem," she said. "But in fact it's a relatively small amount of money for the school system, and it's not going to solve their problems."

Sweet said there's actually very little difference between the dollars spent on private and public schools for special education students because both can easily cost more than $25,000 annually compared to about $17,000, on average, for a general education student.

Sweet's legal team represents low-income families who have had to fight for private school placements. She said they still need to prove their child's needs can't be addressed by the regular public schools.

"The fact is that the city has been sending students with disabilities to private schools for years because it hasn’t made the necessary commitment to fixing a very broken public special education system," Sweet said. "If public school special education worked, we wouldn’t be seeing these private school costs."

Bloomberg also told Albany lawmakers that state mandates will increase special education costs by 13 percent from the current school year to the next one. He's asking the legislature to eliminate an annual bonus for retired city workers and to take other cost-cutting measures that would enable the city to save more money for public education, specifically to prevent teacher layoffs.


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Comments [20]

George from Staten Island, NY

We are faced with difficult economic times which increases the need for advocacy for those with special needs. Many stones will be turned over and many programs will be put under the microscope sometimes in the pretense of saving money. Some of what the mayor says about "private schools" is true but his solutions are lacking or weak. Why in the Greatest City in the world do we need or even accept charter schools in our city. Is it because our schools are failing? It is sad that the mayor instead of getting the Department of Education to develop better schools through out the city based on a charter school model, his focus is on soda pop! It is smoke and mirrors used by a very savvy media mogul? The only obvious conclusion here is, if the schools are failing a large percent of our students in general education, are we suppose to believe it is better prepared to serve those with special needs? Also, this new inclusion of children with special needs into the general population is a long term goal for most children with special needs. It seems to an outsider looking in, that one day the educrats woke up and threw the children with special needs into the deep water of the pool. The reality folks, most of the teachers and their peers were not fully prepared nor were the parents. So, wouldn't we think if this big experiment doesn't work (which I would like to see succeed)that there will be an increase in parents requests for students to be placed in private schools.
I like that the schools are more aware of inclusion but the Mayor and his Educrats planning like so much that goes on in the schools is only partially prepared. The way DOE staff is prepare and train is like the old game of telephone, you know the game? One person starts the message at one end of the room and by the time it gets around to the last person it has been watered down and no longer the original message. This is how training is implemented at the NYCDOE they train a few staff who then go train 10 and they go train 100 and so on, you get the point. So, they started inclusion programs in a few "model schools" which were provided with support, they probably wrote a procedure manual which they then presented to other school administrators at a full day training. The instructions for the manual could very well have read, "take home and place under your pillow tonight and in the morning all will be fine".

Sep. 22 2012 10:37 AM
May from NY

Public monies that are given to the ricih is basically legalized segregation is shameful. The rich are the only ones to benefit from a law that was intended to educate those with special needs. Many of these parents with special needs children abuse and manipulate the system with the support of the child's private school and their attorneys. It is quite frankly a syndicate which hides beneath the fine line of a child's learning style and an actual disability. If you can afford private school for your child then pay for it. Leave the publics money to those students who truly need it. Tuition reimbursement is welfare for the rich and it is just sickening!

Feb. 16 2012 12:53 AM

Parents of general ed students really don't understand what special education entails and the costs. I sent my son to public school for 5 years - I spent $9,000 on occupational therapy for his gross and fine motor skills; $5,000 on speech therapy and $ on a psychiatrist for anxiety. In a "special ed private school" there are on-site therapists. Children cant learn and sit in a classroom if they can't communicate or sit thru a class or if they are distracted by every little thing. People always complain about parents getting reimbursed, but have an autistic child and the haters tune will change. I have paid thousands and thousands of dollars in taxes for the past 40 years and have never asked for anything from my government - no welfare, no food stamps, no Section 8, no medicaid. You want $, go after the people who don't pay taxes, don't work, pay $200 / month for an apartment, pay "0" for a prescription. I paid my dues.

Mar. 04 2011 12:03 PM
Patricia giovenco from Brooklyn, NY

I think an important point that has been brought up in this article is the significant discrepancy spent on educating a child with special needs compared with a general education student ($8000.00). Where is this additional money going? Are the special needs children coming out better educated and more able to live a more meaningful life? How would the general education children benefit if $8000.00 a year more per child were spent on their education? I do not want any child to not be able to reach their highest level of achievement. As a taxpayer, however, I want to know that this added expense in special education is really achieving this goal.

Mar. 03 2011 06:23 PM
Parent of a child with a learning disability from Watertown

Mr. Bloomberg needs to look at the cost of the Attorney that the schools hires, because they can not CSE Committee have not idea what is best for the child. The tax payers pay for the schools Attorney. So the school should pay for the services for the child instead of fighting the parent, at the tax payers expense anyway.

Mr. Bloomberg these school are getting away with not providing a FAPE to children with disabilities, therefore, the schools are reducing their choices in life.

All i can say is ignorance is bliss

Mar. 02 2011 03:33 PM
Special Ed. Mom from New York City

As a parent of a Learning Disabled Special Ed. student in a NYC Private Special Education school, I find it so sad that my child spent 5 years in the NYC public school system before I had no other choice than to place her in a program that could give her the supports she needed to learn. My child is now 13 and still requires continued supports that the DOE lacks in their Special Ed. programs despite Mr. Bloomberg claims. The flip side of the coin is every year the city spends ? millions of dollars hiring attorneys to fight families that have tried the public school system and then only reimburses a portion of the tuition paid. The monies spent on these attorneys for litigation would be much better spent fixing the NYC Public School system to assure the children receive an appropriate education. Mr. Bloomberg neglects to mention that our children are in Special Education Private Schools which are able to meet the needs of children with disabilities. I don't know any parents that enjoy the fact that their child is in a SPECIAL EDUCATION PRIVATE SCHOOL.

Feb. 16 2011 05:34 PM
Jane H. from NYC

Shame on Mayor Bloomberg. I am sure he has not seen the classrooms that he would like to see our Special Ed kids dispatched to. Where they get babysitting as opposed to proper education. Where we are told they cannot mix with typical students because they will be harassed. Where my son would have to be on a bus for 2 hours to get to. And some places where the parents could care less about being involved. I want my son OUT of your lousy system as soon as possible. And he won't get there with our city's disgraceful attitude. What's next? Recommending institutions? Maybe that's cheaper. Use all the money you spend on litigation, treating parents like criminals to EDUCATE properly.

Feb. 16 2011 02:29 PM
Michelle Noris from Queens

A child does not need to "try" a public school to "experience":
1. no bathroom facilities for toileting/changing diapers for children in wheelchairs,
2. "accessible" schools with too many children in the classrooms for a wheelchair to safely navigate,
3. physical therapy on the floor in the hallway with no equipment but a mat, for our most vulnerable children.
NYC does not offer the physical facilities required to educate our most disabled children. If they did, parents would not bus their children for hours a day to private schools instead of attending the excellent school across the street.

Feb. 12 2011 03:01 AM
cheryll from brooklyn

My son was in special ed from the third grade and he was not learning. They tested him and did not follow their own ciriculum. Our story was so strong of how my child was severely neglected by the bd of ed that I won my case and he was sent to a school not a class that dealt with his type of learning disability. He graduated with a general high school diploma.

This would not have happened if it weren't for PAMELA LESLIE HUX SINGH OF EMBRACE DIVERSE DISABILITIES AND KIM SWEET who believed in my son and me. Kim took our case to the LAW FIRM who saw what the dept of education, special ed did to my son and was moved to fight for us

There has to be a CHARTER SCHOOL specifically geared for children with diverse learning disability. The dept of ed and the teacher's union would have to truly be dedicated to teaching these children and not saying they are only good with their hands.

There has to be an early alert program that is put into place by the time child goes from pre-k to the first grade. In this way when the child graduates from JHS or IM or MS, he will have the tools to matriculate in regular class and graduate.


Feb. 11 2011 10:28 PM
WoodcliffFounder from New Jersey

The attitude towards Special Education in NYC has not changed in the past 35 years that I have been involved. There are things that can and should be done to improve the system and save money.

Some of the school buildings do not use all of the classrooms. These buildings could set aside a section of the building for a private school operator to open a private special education school. This would save valuable transportation dollars that are used to bus students to out of discrict private schools. It would also make it easy to intergrate special needs students back into the regular classrooms.

The building Principal would have to permit the private school operator to co-exist in his/her building. Iyt would also need the approval of Bd of Ed.

This is just one very simple thing that can be done to save money.

Elizabeth Ferraro, Ed.D.

Feb. 09 2011 11:04 AM

As a dentist who has treated many special needs patients I have seen first hand the progress that students have shown in a special environment. I strongly support the continuance of education appropriate for the special student so that they can progress educationally and socially. Funding for these programs is essential. Flexibility offers parent the ability to choose the best option for their children.

Feb. 08 2011 08:17 PM
Adrienne Arkontaky, Littman Krooks LLP from Manhattan,White Plains, Fishkill NY

Many NYC families are unable to place their children in the public schools because of a lack of appropriate special education services. Mayor Bloomberg should focus on improving special education in the public schools so that parents will not be forced to place their children in private schools and seek public funding to do so. Many families we work with would welcome a public school education for their children but the recommendations in the public sector are incredibly inadequate and inappropriate and do not provide students with even the minimum levels of special education services required by law.

Feb. 08 2011 06:46 PM
Tim in Queens

Brian from Manhattan is a prime example of the disconnect the Mayor Bloomberg is attempting to capitalize on. Talk about real costs, don't appeal to the knee-jerk taxpayer argument. Brian from Manhattan quite obviously hasn't had to brave the mountain of red tape trying to educate a child with special needs because he obviously doesn't have a child with special needs. If the city had taken the appropriate steps to fix what is right now an utter joke of a special education system in the New York Public school system, we wouldn't even be having this conversation. Brian, go take a look at any District 75 school anywhere. Then ask yourself if you could even handle having a special needs child. And if the answer is yes, then ask yourself if you would you send your child there. If the answer is no, then get off your high horse and try doing something constructive instead of complaining about that which you obviously know nothing of.

Feb. 08 2011 05:50 PM

It makes a big difference when your child is taught in public schools mayor. Did your children go to public schools, I don't think so. Don't comment on what you think is best for the children of NYC when your child pick and choose where they wants to be educated. So sad, this is what happens when people don't vote ...

Feb. 08 2011 03:45 PM
David Pedreira

I am the parent of a child with Downes syndrome and severe brain damage. If Mayor Blomberg
had such a child (and were not a billionaire) would he want his son to be torn out of an environment in which he is happy and well adjusted and thrown
into a system which cannot possibly provide the
quality of care the child is now receiving?
I know Mr. Bloomberg has duties as a mayor, but does he not also have duties as a human being?

Feb. 08 2011 03:13 PM
Brian from Manhattan

This is PUBLIC money spent in a PRIVATE sector.. you are taking money away from the underfunded public schools when you send students to private schools.. This is wrong in so many ways..

Feb. 08 2011 03:05 PM
Barbara J. Ebenstein, Esq. from New Rochelle, NY

It is interesting that the Mayor does not seem familiar with recent case law from the US Supreme Court that clearly addressed this issue.

Forest Grove v. T.A. - the US Supreme Court decided that parents who unilaterally enroll their child with a disability in a private school may be entitled to tuition reimbursement if the child never received special education from the district.

Feb. 08 2011 12:41 PM
Susan Luger from New York City

Once again the Mayor is trotting out this argument about parents not "trying" public schools, This issue has been settled by the Supreme Court. As for the DOE being able to "provide services to those students" - if they could provide the needed services, parents could not successfully get the tuition monies for private schools.

Feb. 08 2011 11:47 AM

Once again, the child is not put first in this "business of education" Under this "new continuum, Phase 1, special ed. students are being removed from self-contained classrooms and into general ed. classrooms without being prepared for the move to cut costs. It is true that the goal should be to move these students forward into a level of independence, when it is feasible and in the "child's best interest. NYC schools don't offer what many of our special ed students need, and since this new continuum it offers even less. Parents should be allowed to get their children the best education possible.

Feb. 08 2011 11:03 AM
Ellen Mc hugh from NYC

Nice going Mayor. Now he clan blame the parents of youngsters with disabilities for the NYC/ NYS budget problems.

Feb. 08 2011 08:58 AM

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