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NYC Council Oversight Hearing on FY23 Preliminary Budget

Published
March 22, 2022
Type
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 FY2023 Preliminary Budget.  My name is Lori Podvesker, and I am the Director of Policy at INCLUDEnyc. For nearly the last 40 years, INCLUDEnyc (formerly 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 two very challenging years. We testify today to urge the City to better prioritize meeting the needs of the near 300,000 students with disabilities in the FY23 budget.

Despite the unprecedented amount of funding the City has received from the federal government and New York State in the last year to address learning loss for students with disabilities, and to provide educational opportunities equal to their peers, the City did not adequately do that this last school year. Tens of thousands of students with disabilities were excluded at Summer Rising programs last year as the result of the City failing to provide timely information to families, special education supports, and mandated busing services to students. In addition, the City first started delivering Special Education Recovery Services (SERS) in December 2021, three months into the school year, and almost all services are not in person, creating the same access barriers for disabled students and their families as full time remote instruction did. 

We have worked with thousands of parents and educators in the last school year, and we know firsthand that the City is not adequately delivering timely and legally required special education evaluations, supports, services, and programs for tens of thousands of students with suspected or known disabilities, ages 3-21-years old. We also know too many families are kept in the dark about their child’s special education services and programs as the result of inferior communication from individual schools and the City. And the Fiscal Year 2022 Mayor’s Management Report further substantiates this by stating parent engagement was down nearly 30% during the 2021-22 school year. 

As a result, we recommend City Council ensures there is adequate funding in the budget for the Department of Education to do the following:

  • Increase salaries for preschool special education teachers and staff at community-based organizations (CBOs) with salaries on par with their 12- month Department of Education (DOE) counterparts
  • Immediately lift hiring freeze and address staffing shortages of qualified special education teachers, paraprofessionals, school psychologists, social workers, related service providers, and transition counselors 
  • Strengthen systemwide capacity to conduct quality special education evaluations for students from preschool and K-12th grades
  • Create borough based centers this Summer to deliver in person SERS services to students who did not receive any during 10-month school year
  • Expand Extended School Year (ESY) services to include all students with IEPs who need additional instruction
  • Provide mandated IEP busing services to students homes from Summer Rising programs this July and August
  • Require schools to deliver all SERS in person as of September 2022 
  • Create a public facing accountability system that tracks how and where special education funding is spent, including targeted IDEA funding through the American Rescue Plan Act
  • Provide parents with more support and training on: specially designed instruction and online learning, behavior supports, digital literacy, educational rights

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. 

Sincerely,

Lori Podvesker
Director of Disability and Education Policy