Last month, the New York State Assembly and Senate both passed versions of a bill that would mandate that school district Committees on Special Education consider the "home life and family background" of special education students when deciding whether to place their students in a public school setting or underwrite the costs of private school placements.
Superintendents of schools and boards of education have consistently voiced their strong opposition to the onerous burdens already placed upon school districts by the hundreds of unfunded mandates currently in place. To add to that burden by approving this bill is to exemplify why our schools are struggling just to maintain a basic level of programs and services.
The disregard our legislators have shown for the state's school districts, their students and taxpayers by passing this bill is astounding. It appears that the continuing public outcry against unfunded mandates was not sufficient to dissuade our legislators from bowing to the pressure of a very small minority of the public who sponsored this legislation, the basis of which is intended to deliberately segregate special education students from their mainstreamed classmates. As a longtime educator with a special-needs family member who was successfully educated in a mainstreamed setting, I can attest to the importance of eligible special-needs students being included in a regular education setting with all appropriate supports being provided. I have also taught in such settings as well as administered programs where this was the norm, and know that all students benefit from such programmatic design when it is well-crafted, carefully implemented and properly supervised.
The fact that our society expects its schools to raise their standards of student and staff performance while simultaneously imposing aid cuts, restrictions on tax-levy increases and new mandates such as this, that are educationally and sociologically unsound and unproven, is mind-boggling, to say the least.
Citizens who are concerned about this latest unfunded mandate are urged to contact Gov. Cuomo, implore him to reject this poorly conceived bill and allow district Committees on Special Education to retain the right to make these decisions where and as they should be made; that is, at the CSE table, without the imposition of artificially derived constraints that benefit no one except private schools.
Northville Central School District