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NYC Council Oversight Hearing on FY24 Executive Budget

Published
May 24, 2023
Type
In the Media, Testimony

We would like to thank the New York City Council’s Committee on Finance for holding this important oversight hearing on the City’s Fiscal Year 2024 Executive Budget. For the last 40 years, INCLUDEnyc (formerly Resources for Children with Special Needs) has helped hundreds of thousands of families navigate the complex city and state service and support systems.

We testify today to highlight the urgent need for the City to continue prioritizing the needs of young people with disabilities in the FY24 budget. This includes maintaining existing funding, dedicating funding in areas where progress is being made,  and extending funding for citywide initiatives scheduled to expire in June 2023 such as the Mental Health Continuum. 

We urge the council to maintain $3.4 million in funding for the Autism Awareness Initiative. There are tens of thousands of children on the autism spectrum living in New York City under the age of 21. According to the New York City Department of Education’s November 2022 Special Education Report to the Council as per Local Law 27, 14% of all school-age students receiving special education services are now classified with autism, including more than 4,400 English Language Learners, 3,000 kindergarteners, and more than 1,700 students classified with autism last year than the school year before. Additionally, there are thousands of children under the age of 5 who are diagnosed with autism or are waiting to be initially evaluated for Early Intervention and preschool special education services. 

During the last year, we had more than a 40% increase in the number of calls we received from families with a loved one on the autism spectrum looking for information and help from us, and twice the number of calls in FY22 than prior to the pandemic. The Autism Awareness Initiative allowed us to do this and can continue to do so if funding remains the same.

In addition, we also urge the council to press on the City to provide all preschoolers  with disabilities with timely evaluations and mandated services. During 2021-22, almost 10,000 preschoolers with disabilities ages 3-5 did not receive all the supports and services they are legally entitled to receive.  This included the City failing to deliver a single speech therapy session before the end of the year to more than 6,500 preschoolers who needed it, including over 2500 children needing bilingual therapy.  In addition, more than one in four preschoolers recommended for physical therapy never received it, and nearly 1,300 children never received their mandated part-time Special Education Itinerant Teacher (SEIT) services, representing 19% of all preschoolers with this recommendation. As a result, the City should invest and baseline $50 million in Fiscal Year 2024 for preschool evaluations and related services. 

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,

Lori Podvesker 
Director of Disability & Education Policy