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New York City Council Oversight Hearing, Education Committee FY24 Preliminary Budget

March 15, 2023
Lori Podvesker
In the Media, Testimony

We would like to thank the New York City Council’s Committee on Education for holding this important oversight hearing on the City’s FY2024 Preliminary Budget.  My name is Lori Podvesker, and I am the Director of Policy at INCLUDEnyc. For over 40 years, INCLUDEnyc (formerly known as Resources for Children with Special Needs) has helped hundreds of thousands of NYC families navigate the complex special education service and support systems.

We commend the Department of Education and all staff at 1800+ schools for their ongoing commitment to our children and their families during the last three very challenging years. We also commend the City for better prioritizing special education this past year than in years past, including expanding access to early childhood for preschoolers with disabilities and the Chancellor’s current initiative “Reimagining Special Education.” 

However, at a time when the City is still receiving additional education funds from the State and has unspent COVID federal relief money, we urge the City for more school funding for FY24, not less! Students are still recovering, both academically and emotionally, from the huge disruptions caused by COVID and school shutdowns, especially the 300,000+ students with disabilities ages 3-21 receiving special education support and services. 

We heard from many parents this past year with children under the age of 5 with suspected or known disabilities who could not access an in-person evaluation or related services. And according to a recent audit by the NYS Comptroller,  almost sixty percent of New York City children ages 0-3 who were eligible for Early Intervention services did not receive all the mandated support they are entitled to as per their individualized plans and federal law.  

We unfortunately have also heard the same thing from school-age parents and have seen a significant increase this school year in the number of evaluation-related calls we have received from families. We also have seen an increase in calls from parents regarding their children and behavioral challenges at

school. We believe some of this is the result of school and system-wide staffing shortages. 

However, we also know the system needs to do better with equitably providing all students with disabilities the appropriate and adequate support and services they need, including access to quality evaluations, instruction, and related services, regardless of a child’s zip code or race, ethnicity, and nationality. 

As a result, we are concerned about the achievement and opportunity gap between general education students and students with disabilities further widening if the City does not extend baseline programs set to expire at the end of this fiscal and school year, make additional investments while federal funds are still available, and meaningfully plan now on how it will sustain existing programs and citywide initiatives when the federal relief money ends this coming Fall. 

In addition, we recommend City Council ensures there is adequate funding in the budget for the City and the Department of Education to do the following:

  • Strengthen systemwide capacity to conduct quality and multilingual  special education evaluations for students from preschool and K-12th grades
  • Continue to fund multi-agency mental health services so students can access timely support 
  • Guarantee school bussing and transportation options to and from all programs for students with disabilities, including all Summer programs 
  • Continue to provide special education academic recovery services in person for students determined in need of them
  • Enhance transparency by creating a public-facing special education funding accountability system that tracks how and where special education funding is spent, including Special Education Unit of Appropriations at the school level and targeted IDEA funding

Thank you for taking the time today to consider this important matter. We look forward to working together and partnering with you to improve equity and access for all young people with disabilities in New York City.