Accelify Blog

Speci al Ed Programs May Face City, State Budget Cuts (NY)

June 14, 2010

The number of special education students in the city is skyrocketing — up by 18,000 this year alone — and the costs of educating them are also rising. Schools Chancellor Joel Klein says next year, to meet state requirements, the city’s special education costs will go up by $140 million.

Klein says it’s time for some of those mandates to go.

"Give us the flexibility and hold us accountable, because mandates are a way to micro-manage a system into compliance, but not manage a system into effective outcomes," says Klein.

Later this month, the State Board of Regents will consider ending some of those mandates.

The teachers’ union and special education advocates are concerned, as one of the mandates that might be lifted is the requirement that all teachers get copies of their students’ Individualized Education Plans (IEP).

"The IEPs are really the roadmaps for the child’s education. So you are basically asking the teacher to lead the child’s education without having the roadmap, which is a very bad idea and could actually hurt students quite considerably," says Kim Sweet of Advocates for Children.

There are questions about how much money some of these proposals will save.

"If a teacher doesn’t have an IEP, all you’re saving is potentially photocopying costs," says Sweet. "I don’t know how much that will be, but then you’ll have to weigh against that the loss in effective service for kids with disab ilities.

Another proposal affects the thousands of Collaborative Team Teaching classes in the city. CTT classes have two teachers, general education students and up to 12 special education students. The Regents may let schools increase the number of special education students.

Klein says he would welcome the flexibility, and for him the changes are not even about the budget.

"So much of special ed has been about dotting I’s and crossing T’s and I think the state wants to move this to a system where we focus heavily on outcomes," says Klein.

Advocates say that’s precisely why those requirements exist, and that without them schools might be tempted to not give special education students the special services they need.