Maintaining Special Education Services
As a constituent who cares deeply about quality public education and providing special education students the services they require, I am writing to ask you to oppose two executive budget proposals that will reduce special education services for students and shift residential placement costs to local school districts. The executive budget again proposes to allow all school districts, BOCES and private schools to petition the State Education Department for "flexibility" in complying with certain special education requirements. This would allow districts to seek approval to cut services to obtain fiscal relief. I urge you to reject this proposal as it raises significant concerns regarding the potential erosion of services to students with disabilities.
I also urge you to reject the executive budget proposal to shift the cost of special education residential placements from the Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) to school districts.
Currently, OCFS is responsible for the "maintenance costs" of students who are placed in residential schools. These placements are made by a school district's Committee on Special Education. The executive budget would eliminate the 18.42 percent state share for placement by districts outside of New York City and increase the school district's share from 38.4 percent to 56.85 percent.
In the four largest school districts in the state outside of New York City, this change would devastate local school budgets. It is estimated that Yonkers would spend an additional $524,797, Syracuse would pay an additional $143,399, Rochester would pay an additional $328,797 and Buffalo would pay an additional $266,933 per year. In total, school districts around the state would pay an additional $26 million.
This proposal shifts state costs to local school districts, which are already underfunded and constrained by the property tax cap.
I urge you to bring this matter before your conference and reject the executive budget proposals that would reduce special education services for students and shift residential placement costs to local school districts.
I thank you for your consideration of these important issues. I would appreciate a reply to my correspondence.
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