Just a couple of hours ago, OU Advocacy-Teach NYS and Yachad, the National Jewish Council for Disabilities (NJCD), celebrated a groundbreaking achievement for New York City families with special needs children. We are proud to have worked and advocated on this issue, and, in cooperation with Agudath Israel of America and the NY Catholic Conference, helped to create and pass legislation that would relieve some of the burden that families have to contend with when dealing with the NYC Department of Education. We applaud NYC Mayor Bill deBlasio and NYS Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver for collaborating and putting in place these important changes to the NYC DOE system.
The Mayor himself mentioned that these changes only occurred because of a small but vocal advocacy—that’s people like you, those who’ve lent their time and voices both in their communities and in Albany to issues like this. Our effort and movement only works with your active involvement.
Below, please see a letter from Dr. Jeff Lichtman, International Director of Yachad, which describes this magnificent accomplishment.
Jeff Leb, New York State Director
I am excited to share the news with you that today, New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced sweeping changes within the New York City Department of Education for families with children with special needs. These changes mark the end of the DOE’s practice of challenging private school placements for children with special needs and implement a system that is fairer to families.
For too long New York City parents of children with special needs have suffered needlessly through endless litigation, financial uncertainty and educational instability. The New York City DOE has, in recent years, hired armies of attorneys in order to challenge every single Individualized Educational Program that recommended placement in non-public schools. The city set its sights on our children’s placements and diagnoses simply because we, as parents, chose to educate our children in private schools.
Last week, YACHAD NJCD partnered with OU Advocacy—which has been advocating for legislative change on this issue for many years—to bring a delegation of parents and students with special needs to Albany to support a bill that would put an end to the years of mistreatment and uncertainty at the hands of the DOE. Our students underscored to legislators the significant impact the bill would have on thousands of New York City families by relieving the tremendous burden of fighting with the DOE for placement and/or reimbursement.
Thankfully, after years of advocacy on this important issue, and due to our efforts with OU Advocacy, we have finally seen a resolution to this crisis. Thanks to the tremendous advocacy of NYS Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder, Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein and Senator Simcha Felder, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has agreed to make major policy changes in the Department of Education, to be implemented for the upcoming school year, which will include the following:
Timely Decisions: New York City has agreed to ensure timely responses to placement challenges. In the past, this issue would drag on for years; now, decisions about cases must be made within 15 days.
Financial Certainty: The City will now be mandated to make tuition payments on a monthly basis and also provide a payment schedule to parents. No longer will we wait with uncertainty for tuition reimbursements—we will know how much is being paid and when it will be paid.
Reduction of Paperwork: The DOE will now only require that parents submit full documentation once every three years, rather than every year, allowing for income eligibility updates to be made each year, as needed.
Stability: Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, the City will no longer challenge placements to non-public schools on an annual basis. Going forward, the DOE will refrain from re-litigating settlements or decided cases, provided the IEP remains the same. The years of parents paying thousands of dollars in legal fees just to justify a child’s diagnosis and IEP are over.
This agreement is extremely encouraging and we thank all the individuals and organizations involved in helping this deal become a reality for our children. And I sincerely want to thank you for your dedication to your children and to our community.
Dr. Jeff Lichtman, International Director of Yachad