IAC Meets with Board of Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa, Regent Christine Cea and Regent Susan Mittler
On Tuesday May 10th IAC representatives Tom McAlvanah, Wini Schiff, and Chris Treiber met with Board of Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa, Regent Christine Cea, and Regent Susan Mittler. In preparation for the meeting IAC shared a copy of the testimony Chris gave during the Legislative Budget Hearing on Education in January. Our goal for this meeting was to introduce the IAC and the work of our education providers to Chancellor Rosa and to educate her about the financial and staffing crisis facing our schools. Chris and Wini discussed the education advocacy campaign “Our Children are Your Children” Chancellor Rosa and the other member of Board of Regents liked the title. Chancellor Rosa understood that the children served in our schools are public school children and that they are entitled to an appropriate education. Chris also presented an analysis of the most recent CFR data that highlighted the extent of the financial losses that special education preschool and school-age programs have experienced due to inadequate state funding. Chris also told the Chancellor and the members of the Board of Regents present about the high teacher turnover and vacancy rates and the challenges our schools are facing attempting to recruit and retain certified special education teachers. He provided the data on the significant salary disparity between what our schools can pay teachers and what school districts can pay. Chris stated the current reality for our students that children with the highest levels of need in the state are being educated by the least experienced teachers and unless the funding for these programs is increased this will not change. Chancellor Rosa and the other members of the Board of Regents expressed their concerns for special education preschool and school-age programs and recognized the importance of the services to children with the highest levels of need. Regent Mittler spoke about her rural part of the state where there are very few preschool special education programs and when one closed it had a significant impact on the area. They all acknowledged the need for better funding for these programs and asked us about our advocacy efforts with the legislature. We told them about our request for 14.7 million dollars for teacher recruitment and retention and that there was no additional money added to the final state budget. We thanked Chancellor Rosa for the support of SED and cited the last few recommendation letters requesting tuition increases for both 4410 and 853 programs. We expressed our hope that this year’s SED letters would make tuition increase recommendations reflective of the dire crisis facing our schools.
Chris discussed the large number of preschool programs that have closed and the discussion that he had with NYC SEQA Office that there would soon be a regional need request for New York City that would be very large. Chancellor Rosa was very interested in the New York City regional need and told us that she was going to be having a meeting in the next two weeks with the new School Chancellor for New York City Richard Carranza. Chancellor Rosa asked Chris if he could provide her with a series of concrete recommendations that she could discuss with Chancellor Carranza when she met with him for the first time. She wanted to be sure to discuss the issues facing our schools and would include them in her priority list for her meeting with the Chancellor.
In our recommendation letter that we sent to Chancellor Rosa we welcomed the new Chancellor and expressed our desire to develop a closer and more collaborative working relationship with the NYC DOE. We stated that our schools share the same goal, to ensure that all of New York City’s children receive a high-quality education and achieve their highest potential. We stressed that it is in the best interest of the NYC DOE and children with special needs that 4410 and 853 programs continue to offer quality special education services. These programs provide a free and appropriate education to children in NYC when the CPSE or CSE determines that there is no public-school program available to meet the child’s needs. We acknowledged that while NYC does not have a direct role in determining the tuition reimbursement for our programs NYC’s children and families have suffered from the consequences of the inadequate funding these programs have received for the past 7 years.
In the letter we made a series of suggestions to enhance our partnership with the NYC DOE and to improve the quality of services to New York City’s children with the highest levels of need.
- 1.NYC DOE to evaluate the process that a parent must go through when attempting to get their child into an 853 program.
853 programs are an integral part of the special education continuum and provide educational services to NYC special education students when District 75 is unable to meet their needs. The cost of the tuition for 853 programs is significantly less than the alternatives – private or residential schools. The regional average tuition cost at an 853 school is $50,679 while the cost at a private Carter-funded school can range as high as $100,000 or more for which NYC pays up to 100% of the cost. NYC is reimbursed 85% of the cost of tuition by NYS for a student attending an 853 school, yet, has made it easier for a parent with the financial resources to hire an attorney and battle the DOE for placement in a private school (and get NYC reimbursement), than to get a seat in an 853 school.
- 2.Collaborate to solve issues that threaten the existence of 4410 preschools.
- Convene meetings with provider association representatives of 4410 and 853 programs on a quarterly basis to allow for ongoing communication, dialog and problem solving.
- Schedule yearly meetings with 4410 and 853 providers to hear directly from providers and foster collaboration
- Seek the expertise and technical support of 4410 providers when a DOE kindergarten student who attended a 4410 preschool is having difficulty adjusting to the new educational setting. Most times, the child’s parent contacts the preschool seeking advocacy assistance.
- Offer opportunities for 4410 and 853 teachers and teacher assistants to receive professional development from the DOE. This would foster consistency of approach and collaboration among school settings.
- Advocate in collaboration on legislative issues that directly benefit 4410 and 853 programs and the children and families they serve which will, in turn, benefit the NYC DOE.
- Provide a yearly report documenting the quality of the 4410 programs based on the DOE 4410 Oversight Unit’s annual site visits.
- 3.End the practice of requiring teaching candidates to report immediately at a public school without allowing them to give two weeks’ notice to a 4410 provider and minimum transition period for the children in their class.
- 4.Support Amendment to Local Law 27 of 2015 that would include preschool students with disabilities in the special education report that the NYC DOE must produce each year.
- 5.End the practice of allowing parents to withdraw their children from a 4410 Special Class Integrated Settings (SCIS) class after they have enrolled and the program has started.
We concluded the letter by stating that the potential solutions we offer do not address the harsh reality facing these programs that serve many of New York City’s most vulnerable children. 4410 and 853 schools have suffered for many years without any tuition increases, and only in the last few years have they received very small increases. The impact of the growth freeze, and the limited tuition increases have left these programs on the brink of financial collapse and unable to recruit and retain certified special education teachers and teacher assistants.