In response to criticism and urging from Councilman David G. Greenfield and dozens of local parents, the city Department of Education (DOE) has reversed course and will continue to reimburse parents of special needs students for portions of summer camp tuition. Greenfield immediately objected earlier this year when the DOE announced that it was ending its long-standing practice of paying for the educational and therapeutic components of special needs students’ summer camp tuition, which provides the children with critical year-round education.
After word of the shortsighted policy change by the DOE reached the public in late April, Greenfield co-wrote a letter with Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer to Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott expressing serious concerns about the impact this decision would have on special needs students and their families. Last week, the DOE announced it has reversed course as a result of the political and public outcry and will continue to reimburse parents for summer camp programs that are vital to the students’ year-round education.
“This decision is a major victory for special needs parents who are simply fighting for the services their children are entitled to and deserve. Through my work with parents, yeshivas and my colleagues in government, we were able to bring enough attention to this ill-conceived decision before it impacted children and families this summer. I am thankful that the DOE recognized how shortsighted this policy change was and the detrimental ramifications it would have had,” said Greenfield.
In the May 21 letter to Chancellor Walcott, Greenfield and Stringer argued that it’s doubtful the policy change would have even saved the city money, since the DOE is required to provide many special needs students with a year-round Individualized Education Program (IEP). They also objected to the manner in which the policy change was communicated to parents, who were only told when they reapplied for their child’s IEP. In addition, Greenfield and Stringer demanded the immediate reinstatement of all summer placements for this year, which the DOE agreed to do.
“These are placements that impact the most vulnerable students in our care… whose parents are now facing the unexpected prospect of having limited professional care for their children this summer,” they wrote. “As we are sure you can imagine, the stress of caring for a severely disabled child is hard enough. That stress is only compounded by uncertainty over educational and healthcare services. For severely disabled students, this care is not a luxury– it is an absolute necessity for them and their families.”
Under the agreement reached this week, all students who have an IEP that includes summer camp enrollment will be reimbursed for this year’s summer camp.
“Special needs students and their parents have enough challenges to face without being broadsided at the last minute by an unfair DOE policy change. We must do more as a city to support these families instead of depriving them of critical services, and this is a step in the right direction,” added Greenfield.
(YWN Desk – NYC)