There are two sides to every story. A Special Education bill in New York recently got vetoed by Governor Andrew Cuomo. He felt the bill would place an undue burden on taxpayers. The other side feels that this bill was “misunderstood”.
Governor Andrew Cuomo vetoed a bill that would have required public school officials to consider the “home life and family background” of a Special Education student when making decisions about placement of that student into a school.
Right now, federal law allows a student who is enrolled in the Special Education program of a public school to be assigned to a different school if the first school cannot meet the needs of the student. It relates to the Americans With Disabilities Act. Schools must be able to adequately provide for a student’s needs. For example, if the student needs a speech therapist, the school needs to have one available.
If the public school cannot provide the speech therapist, occupational therapist, or other specialists that the student requires, this is a problem. In these situations, a parent can have their child moved from the inadequate public school to another public school, or to a private school, that can provide for the special needs of their child. If this happens, the public school must pay for the tuition (if there is one).
Governor Cuomo said that this bill would have created an “overly broad and ambiguous mandate” to send more Special Education students into private schools, and that this would burden taxpayers with “incalculable significant additional costs”. It would also allow parents who wanted their child to attend a religious school to use Special Education funding to move their child into one – even if the public school was meeting the student’s needs.
There are two sides to every story, and I was curious about what the other side thought about this bill. It was passed by both the New York Senate and Assembly. Religious groups who lobbied for this legislation to be made into law said that the bill was “misunderstood”. The director of special education affairs for Agudath Israel of America, Leah Steinberg, said the bill wasn’t about religion. She says it was about ensuring that a child who needed a certain kind of setting in order to learn would be able to get it. She said:
“This is for children who have socialization issues who are maybe on the Aspberger’s or autism spectrum and who cannot really integrate even regular life, for which it is necessary for them to have consistency. And the consistency must play out 24 hours a day”.
Director of special education at the New York State Catholic Conference, James Cultara, said there would have been a “rigorous screening process”. He said:
“If it’s a matter of the parents making a preference, saying I prefer my child to be in a Catholic school, that’s not good enough”.
Image by Horia Varlan on Flickr