As your constituent and someone who cares deeply about public education, I strongly urge you to support the state’s special schools, which provide a diverse array of programs designed to meet the unique educational needs of the state's most vulnerable, traumatized, disabled and marginalized youth. These schools provide education and related services to school-age students who, for many reasons, are unable to be served by either the local public schools or BOCES. These schools were specifically created to meet the intense needs of students placed by the juvenile justice, child welfare, mental health, developmental disability and special education systems. This vital continuum provides students with disabilities or with severe behavioral, emotional, educational or physical challenges, both day and residential options to meet their individual educational and therapeutic needs.
Social-emotional and academic needs, which have been amplified by the pandemic, have resulted in increased costs that endanger the future of Special Act, 853 and 4201 Schools as well as 4410 Programs. It is imperative that the state properly support these schools, the students who require these services and the educators who provide them. These students cannot simply be placed in a remote option by their home districts
Funding for these programs should be increased to support the actual needs of the students, and flexibility in the funding for these schools should be provided for the unique services and needs that these students require. These schools are funded entirely through an antiquated and inefficient rate-setting process rather than school aid formulas and local school tax levies. The executive budget includes a $2.5 million request to study and re-tool this payment process and I fully support this proposal.
Special Act and 853 Schools and 4410 Programs received an 11 percent COLA increase for the 2022-23 school year while 4201 Schools did not receive nearly the same increase. This year, 4201 schools are facing the prospect of a $2 million cut to their operational aid in the executive budget proposal.
Accordingly, I urge you to work with your conference and your leadership to restore the $2 million cut to 4201 Schools and ensure they receive funding-increase parity with other special education providers. I also urge you to create a $30 million program, over three-years, for 4201 Schools so that they may recruit and retain educators and direct care staff. I call on you and your colleagues to continue to provide increases in tuition rates that correspond with the support provided to public education; invest $20 million in the Excessive Teacher Turnover grant and create a $30 million Direct Services Turnover grant to recruit and retain both educators and staff in Special Act and 853 Schools and 4410 Programs. I further urge you to provide capital funding to address the critical building, health and safety needs in our special schools and fund the $2.5 million SED grant to establish a modern, more responsive rate methodology.
Thank you for your consideration of this important matter. I look forward to a reply to my e-mail.