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GNPS Call For Governor To Turn Down New Bill To Reimburse For Private Schools

(Editor’s Note: Both the New York State Senate and the New York State Assembly have passed a bill requiring reimbursements for private school placements of certain students. The bill now awaits the governor’s signature. The Great Neck Public Schools Board of Education adopted a resolution and sent it to Governor Andrew Cuomo. The resolution, and a statement by Great Neck Public Schools Superintendent Thomas Dolan follows.)

Statement by Dr. Thomas Dolan

“This is another piece of legislation that could pile financial burdens on a school district, with those costs being passed along directly to taxpayers. The bill would establish new rules for Committees on Special Education that would obligate them to reimburse parents for a placement that they enact, without any opportunity for the school district to be involved in that placement. This legislation was passed despite the fact that CSE’s have no authorization to make such payments. The language is overly broad and will lead to various interpretations and inevitable litigation, again at the expense of the school district and its residents.

“I am not surprised that it was introduced and passed only at the tail end of the legislative session, as any careful review of it would have demonstrated its obvious flaws. New York State School Boards Association, the Nassau Suffolk School Boards Association and this district (along with many other school districts) join together to implore the governor to veto this bill should it reach his desk. If the legislature would like to propose such legislation, they should do so at a time when we can all be a part of the dialogue, rather than surprising the entire state with this proposal in the final minutes of their legislative term.”

GNPS Resolution Regarding New Requirements for Committees on Special Education

“WHEREAS, a last minute legislative effort has resulted in passage of a bill that would heap new financial and administrative burdens on our school districts by requiring Committees on Special Education to take a student’s home life and cultural environment into account when making special education placements and require reimbursement within 30 days of tuition payments made by parents for unapproved placements.

“WHEREAS, the bill may well violate federal IDEA requirements and according to the Poughkeepsie Journal, ‘leave local school districts exposed to a myriad of lawsuits and soaring special educational  costs.”’

“WHEREAS, this legislation came without sufficient time for due consideration, leaving schools blindsided with new costs after their budgets were decimated to stay under the tax cap.

“WHEREAS, the legislation leaves districts with high ethnic and religious populations subject to outlandish parental demands, jeopardizing funds budgeted for other special education students and the general education population of the district; ignoring the fact that under the tax cap, unexpected funds must be taken from existing programs and services, hurting other students.

“WHEREAS, there are better ways to make sure that parents don’t wait too long for reimbursement when it’s found to be warranted, streamlining how placement challenges are settled and being culturally sensitive when making placements. Allowing parents to demand private school placement when an appropriate public school program exists is detrimental to other students and the taxpaying communities that support our schools.

“WHEREAS, if the State of New York believes this is  appropriate, it needs to provide the funding from its larger tax base and not expect local taxpayers to pay for a program that is not based on educational  concerns.

“WHEREAS, the bill is legally flawed, as Committees on Special Education do not have the authority to reimburse parents for private, unapproved placements within 30 days as required under the bill. They may only do so only when directed by a hearing officer.

“WHEREAS, this amounts to New York State’s first voucher program and one for only the wealthy, as only wealthy parents can afford to pay private, non-approved tuition payments and wait for reimbursement.

“WHEREAS, this is a voucher program intended to segregate our children. New York State has always been a leader in integrating all of our children, irrespective of race, culture or special needs. Now, we are not only allowing a return to segregation, we are encouraging it by paying wealthy  parents to use high cost, private services based on culture and not the  appropriate educational services needed by the student to separate student,  depriving them of the advantages of a shared social experience.

“NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Board of Education of the Great Neck U. F. S. D. calls on Governor Andrew Cuomo to veto this onerous and inappropriate legislation.”