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2021 Oversight Hearing on Executive Budget

Published
May 25, 2021
Type
Testimony

We would like to thank the New York City Council’s Committee on Finance and Subcommittee on the Capital Budget for holding this important oversight hearing on the City’s Fiscal Year 2022 Executive Budget. INCLUDEnyc (formerly Resources for Children with Special Needs) has worked with hundreds of thousands of families since our founding nearly 40 years ago, helping them navigate city and state service and support systems.

We testify today to highlight the urgent need for the Council and the City to prioritize the needs of young people with disabilities in the FY22 budget. With the unprecedented amount of additional money coming in from New York State and the federal government this year, hundreds of thousands of disabled New Yorkers under the age of 26 finally have a real chance at receiving a quality education, meaningful inclusion, and becoming employed. Their families also have a chance at accessing the required information they need to adequately support their child at  home, school, and within their communities.  But only if the City and Council dedicate funds accordingly.  

We urge the council to maintain $3.246 million funding for the Autism Awareness Initiative. Children on the autism spectrum and their families have been amongst the most affected by the constant and radical disruptions these last fifteen months. During this time we served more than 15,000 people with any suspected or known disabilities, including 1500+ who identified either as a young person with autism, or a family member/caregiver of someone with autism.  We are deeply grateful to this Council for this initiative. Because it provided us the resources we needed to help these families during COVID-19.

Yet we also know these young people and their families will need the same amount of help now and moving forward, if not more, as they begin to formally address the changes in their child’s behavior, communication skills, and learning as the result of the loss of in-person care, services, support, and communities. Many of these families are on the brink right now. Without this resource, we are deeply concerned these families will not be able to access the support they need and have a further negative impact on their overall well being, including physical safety for some. 

We also urge the council to press on the City to release a timely plan on how the Department of Education will provide compensatory services for the 300,000+ students with disabilities ages 3-21. The FY 22 Executive Budget includes $236 million for special education services, including compensatory services. However, the absence of an implementation plan and timeline from the Department of Education on how they will provide these services, makes it difficult to determine if this funding level appropriately will meet the need.

The City must soon put out guidance in writing for the 1400+ principals in our system on how they will determine who receives services. So our students receive the specialized instruction, support, and services they are legally entitled to receive in order to make educational progress. And without individual families having to pursue their due process rights and file for administrative hearings. 

We also are very concerned about the social-emotional well being of all our students and their families. While we are thrilled the City will address the mental health of all students at all schools, the City must use multiple assessment tools. One screening tool chosen and used for one million students will not be effective in identifying the common signs of trauma and distress for many students with intellectual disabilities and autism (approximately 30,000 last school year). We ask this council to press the City to purchase screening tools that specifically are designed for young people with developmental disabilities that manifest in social interaction and communication disorders. 

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

Sincerely,

Barbara A. Glassman

Executive Director