Special Education Advocates Offer Lengthy To-Do List for New Mayor

The arrival of a new mayor has motivated interest groups to make their wish lists for Bill de Blasio as he considers who to name as schools chancellor, and what pressing education issue to tackle first when he assumes power in January. Among the most vocal are parents and advocates for special needs students.  

The ARISE coalition submitted a letter to de Blasio last week with its recommendations. They included more coordination with parents, restructuring the funding formula and investment in new technologies for educating kids with disabilities. 

Also, Kpana Kpoto, a special needs consultant for families, wrote the letter below. Share your own letter, and wish lists, with us. 

Dear Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio,

In case you are wondering, I voted for you. I heard that you were the most special-education friendly candidate AND I have a six-year old son on the autism spectrum. I heard that you care about ALL people. This kind of inclusion is what our city needs. As you go through this transition period, you are probably wondering how you can help families like mine. Funny you should ask. Here are some things I believe our special education children need:

An Appropriate Education

We need a complete overhaul of the special education reform so that it works. We need better; I mean “appropriate,” schools for special education students in every borough in New York City.

We need schools that provide the resources and services that our children need. We are tired of having to fight at IEP meetings for what seems like the bare minimum.

We need teachers and staff working with our children who understand their diagnoses.

We need up-to-date teaching methodologies like Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) in more city schools.

We need school district members on the IEP team to have a basic idea of the IDEA law, so they can come into meetings informed before they tell us what we can and can’t have.

Efficient Transportation

 The Office of Pupil Transportation is a mess. We need a new fleet of buses with dual AC and GPS tracking.

We need better communication about our children’s bus routes and bus routers who understand traffic patterns.

Bus routes are too long and convoluted. Out-of-borough and in-borough time limits for bus routes are out dated.

We need better contracts put in place with bus companies, so that our children are not left out in the cold like they were during the bus strike last winter.

I propose a series of town hall meetings in every borough with special education parents. This will give us an opportunity to share ideas and brainstorm solutions. Also, I suggest you creat a Special Education Task Force that would oversee the changes, and would include at least one parent. Pardon the cliché but we can’t kick the can down the road any longer. Things are not getting better; they are getting worse. Your overwhelming win gives you a mandate, a mandate for change and the inclusion of everyone.

I hope you use it to make the special education programs better for everyone.

Sincerely, 

Kpana Kpoto