Special Thanks for Special Ed Bill

Parents of children with special needs got some encouraging news on Monday when the New York State Senate passed a Special Ed bill, S.7961. The bill, which was sponsored by Senator Simcha Felder, will substantially ease the burden borne by families of children with disabilities who attend private schools.

As reported by Hamodia Tuesday, the bill, which would only apply to New York City, would force the city to deal with objections parents may have to school districts’ student placement recommendations within the time frame prescribed by federal law. The city would also have to set forth a timeline for payment once there is a settlement or a finding in favor of a private school placement. This will be a great help to these families, who often find themselves advancing thousands of dollars they don’t have before they can recoup any of it from the city.

Most importantly, however, is the provision that parents will no longer need to actively prove the appropriateness of the placement every single year. Absent a challenge from the school district, the status quo would remain in place. This provides stability for the child and, equally importantly, spares parents the pain of having to demonstrate the struggle of their child’s disability on an annual basis.

It was this point that was accurately expressed by Senator Felder in an emotional address on the Senate floor. Felder, who said that the bill was “personal” to him, spoke about his disabled grandchild, and said that “the last thing that [his daughter] would need, if she lived in the city, would have to be to be subject to the torture that these parents have [to go through] year after year after year, reviewing the same things over and over and over again.”

His moving speech embodied the dictum, “Devarim hayotzim min halev nichnasim el halev.” Senator Ruben Diaz then took to the floor and said, “After listening to Senator Felder, Senator … I congratulate you. Because I was voting no, but after listening to you, I’m changing my vote to yes.” The Senate applauded.

Senator Felder deserves our gratitude for his tireless work on this, and so many other issues that affect our community.

But we would be remiss if we did not recognize someone who, as Senator Felder said, “did an extraordinary job” on this bill. That someone is State Senator John J. Flanagan. The Senator defended the bill tirelessly on the Senate floor, and corrected many of the misconceptions. His erudite defense of the bill is especially notable when you consider that it is of no direct benefit to his constituents, as he does not represent New York City. Senator Flanagan worked on the bill because it was the right thing to do, and for that he deserves our appreciation.