The State Education Department’s proposal to relax some special education rules met resistance today from two New York City-based members of the Board of Regents.
The Bronx’s Betty Rosa and Brooklyn’s Kathleen Cashin were the only two members of a Board of Regents subcommittee to vote against the proposals, which would significantly reduce or eliminate the roles of people that are currently required to serve on a committee that supports student with disabilities.
Both Rosa and Cashin said they were concerned that scaling back services would hurt children who require individual education plans. Cashin questioned whether the proposals, which are meant to cut costs, would result in any kind of real savings.
“The whole mandate relief is not that expensive, relatively speaking, compared to the trauma that could be caused the family,” Cashin said.
Cashin was particularly concerned with the decision to eliminate the “parent member” role on the committee. The role, an unpaid position, is meant to provide additional support for parents whose students have disabilities.
But SED Deputy Commissioner Becky Cort, who presented the recommendations to the Regents, said the “parent member” role was duplicated by the school psychologist and other school staff who sit in on the meetings. In addition, she said, because the parent member wasn’t always available for meetings, finding a time when the entire committee could meet was frequently tricky.
Other Regents disagreed and voted to approve the recommendations, which
will likely be officially was passed at tomorrow’s this evening’s general Board of Regents meetings. Long Island’s Roger Tilles, who said one of his children has had “eight or nine” individualized education plans over the years, said the parent member has offered him little support when they meet.
“I find that the parent member is not the person that helps me out,” Tilles said of the meetings.
The proposals come six months after state education officials first offered up a framework for mandate relief. After May’s meeting, in which they opened up the conversation to the public, Cort said they received over 700 comments. One of the “major changes” that were made from the original framework was to reinstate the school psychologist back onto the committee. The first proposal recommended that the psychologist be eliminated.
“Our sense,” Cort said of the public feedback, “was that in most instances the psychologist would be an important member at the iniatial assessment.”
The proposals are the first in a series of reforms expected to be made in coming years that will curtail mandated spending on special education services. New York State spends more on mandated special education services than any state in the country.
Critics of the mandates say other states perform just as well or outperform New York State in serving its special education services.
“This is part of a broader discussion in a series of steps that will allow greater flexibility of rules for districts,” said Regent Jim Tallon, who is leading the Board of Regent’s state aid efforts.
“It’s a start,” said Bob Lowry, deputy director for the New York State Council of School Superintendents. “The point I would make is that our practices are so out of line with that of other states that are doing just as well or better than us.”