Parents Denounce Chancellor’s Claim About Private School Tuition for Students With Disabilities

By Hamodia Staff

NYC Chancellor David E. Banks. (NYC DOE)

NEW YORK — New York City Chancellor David E. Banks denounced parents seeking to have their children with disabilities placed in private institutions as figuring out “how to game the system” and that it would be best for this money to be returned to the school budget.

Speaking at a parent advisory council meeting, Banks said, “All this money that is meant for the kids in our public schools are going to private schools. Folks have figured out how to game this system.”

Banks insisted that if the funds were returned to the public school system, “We wouldn’t be having this fight about budget cuts. We’d be able to pay for all that after-school programming, all of those kinds of things. This is money that’s going out the back door every single day.” He indicated that the city now spends $1.2 billion on special education payments, including tuition for private schools.

Federal law allows families to seek private placements if the city is unable to provide a free and appropriate education in a public setting. Parents and advocates assert that the city cannot provide adequate options for their children with disabilities, and that is why they must seek placement in private schools, which they are legally entitled to.

Teach New York released a statement in which they derided Banks’ words was an affront to the very community he is entrusted to serve. “New York City parents of special needs students are routinely subjected to a difficult, exhausting, and financially prohibitive process just to get services they are legally entitled to. Furthermore, his threats to cut funding for these life-saving services and schools has only fueled anxiety for these families, many of whom are drowning in paperwork and legal fees because the DOE is not providing for their children.”

Education Department spokesperson Nicole Brownstein wrote a short while after Banks’ comments, “We know that families want to do what is best for their children, and all children are entitled to attend a school that best meets their needs and allows them to reach their highest potential.”

Students with dyslexia and other educational challenges say that the tuition payments for their children’s schooling in private institutions is a lifeline for them. However, in order to get the tuition payments, parents must expend significant time and resources which often precludes low income families from getting quality educational programs which they need and deserve.

Chancellor Banks did not specify how families were gaming the system or whether the education department is planning to make it harder for families to secure private school tuition payments. Mayor Bill de Blasio had implemented some procedures which at times made it easier to navigate the reimbursement process, as opposed to his predecessor Mayor Michael Bloomberg who hired additional lawyers to prevent families from receiving tuition to enroll their children in private schools.

“The parents and caregivers of children with special needs are simply trying to do their best to give their kids the education they are legally entitled to. We are lucky that we have some schools that can step up and provide services they can’t get anywhere else,” said Dan Mitzner, Director of Government Affairs at Teach NYS.

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