Mayor Bill de Blasio and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver today announced a package of administrative changes that make the process easier and less contentious for parents who are entitled to reimbursement of tuition for their child’s special education program. The changes will affect parents whose children attend special education programs outside of public schools in order to receive necessary services.
The special education placement process has been fraught with contention and litigation in recent years. The changes announced today will simplify and expedite the process for families with valid claims. The Department of Education is committing to render decisions about whether to settle cases within 15 days, to expedite reimbursements to parents, and to limit the paperwork they are required to submit. The changes were developed in consultation with Speaker Silver and the New York State Assembly.
“Every child in this city deserves a quality education. But for years, parents of children with special needs have had to wait for the City to settle legitimate claims for tuition reimbursement. Today, we are turning the page, making changes that will ease the burden on these parents. We are cutting red tape, speeding up the process, and reaching outcomes that do right by families,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio.
“Each and every child in this state is entitled to a sound, basic education. Unfortunately, our public school system is not always able to accommodate children with special education needs, and many parents must turn to non-public schools. For too long, parents of special needs children had to engage in a lengthy fight to get their children placed in a private school. Parents have had to sue the City for reimbursement of tuition, placing an undue financial burden on these families. Worse yet, parents have to fight this battle year after year. On behalf of the Assembly Majority, I thank Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein, who has led the way on this issue for many years, Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan, our Education Committee Chair, and Mayor Bill de Blasio, for his commitment to New York City’s children. This is a great victory for our special needs children and their hardworking families,” said Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.
“The Department of Education is committed to ensuring that all students with disabilities receive the programs and services they need to thrive academically, socially and emotionally,” said Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña. “This agreement will make the settlement process more efficient and help reduce the uncertainty and waiting for payment, which can be a strain for families with valid claims for tuition reimbursement.”
The action plan announced today will implement the following changes by September 1, 2014:
Expedite Decisions: Where settlement is appropriate, DOE will seek settlement within 15 days of receiving notice of parent intent to unilaterally place their child in a school.
Reduce Extended Legal Battles: The DOE will refrain from re-litigating settled or decided cases, unless there is a change in the IEP placement recommendation. The DOE will avoid unnecessary litigation in cases where the agency is unable to offer a placement, or when a child is about to enter the final grade of a school.
Reduce Paperwork: Instead of requiring parents to submit full documentation every year, the DOE will only require that paperwork every three years, allowing for income eligibility updates to be made each year, as needed.
Expedite Payments: DOE will make tuition payments on a monthly basis when required by a program, and it will provide a payment schedule to parents following any settlement. Once parents win a claim for tuition reimbursement, the DOE will pay the tuition while the DOE appeals that decision to a higher level of review.
(YWN Desk – NYC)