|Mayor de Blasio|
Westchester NY.-Coincidencialmente inicio estos artículos sobre la contienda del Distrito congresional No. 13. Descubro en el proceso de investigacion que el candidato Senador Adriano Espaillat no voto por varias leyes trascendentales para la educacion y otros renglones de las comunidades a las que sirve, tampoco lo hizo la Asambleista Gabriela Rosa. Este blog lleva varios días con publicaciones de estos hallazgos. Es en este lapsus de dias que se aprueba la ley de reemborso mediante la lucha de los oficiales Felder y Flanagan.
Hoy el Alcalde Bill de Blasio quien tiene una postura digna sobre las escuelas Charter y los servicios a los estudiantes con deshabilidad y a sus parientes hablo claro y preciso respecto a la Ley aprobada ayer S 7722A - Ley de reemborso y a la que el Senador Espaillat y la Asambleista Gabriela Rosa dieron la espalda desde Febrero del 2008 cuando se iniciaron los esfuerzos a nivel legislativo.
Coincidentally I start these articles on the congressional race of district 13. I discover in this research process that the candidate Adriano Espaillat did not vote for many transcendental laws for the education and other issues of the communities he serves, nor did the assemblywoman Gabriela Rosa. This blog, for the past few days now, has published these many revelations. In this time-laps the special education reimbursement law passes via the struggle of the elected officials Felder and Flanagan.
Today the Mayor Bill de Blasio who has a dignified stance on charter schools and the services for disabled students and their parents spoke clearly and directly in respect to the law that passed yesterday S 7722A - Authorizes Special Education Tuition Reimbursement in which that Senator Espaillat and the assemblywoman Gabriela Rosa turned their backs on since February 2008 when the legislative struggle was started. (MV)
Ver transcripto del Mayor de Blasio
THE CITY OF NEW YORK
OFFICE OF THE MAYOR
NEW YORK, NY 10007
RUSH TRANSCRIPT: MAYOR DE BLASIO AND SPEAKER SILVER ANNOUNCE NEW STEPS TO HELP FAMILIES OF STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES
Mayor Bill de Blasio: Well, welcome, everyone. I want to welcome our colleagues from the Assembly and the Senate who have joined us here today. I just to say this before we get into this issue – that I really want to offer my appreciation on behalf of the people of this city to all of my colleagues here. This year in Albany – I’ve experienced it from a different perspective than ever before, Mr. Speaker – the fact is that our delegation in Albany fought for us in the budget process, fought for us in the flurry of activity as the legislative session came to an end. And the record of achievement is outstanding. What was achieved in the budget process, overall for the city, was extraordinary, particularly the progress we made on pre-k. What was achieved in the legislative session on speed limits, on speed cameras, what was achieved earlier on homelessness prevention and on the rent-cap for people with HIV and AIDS – it is an extraordinary record of achievement and it is the individuals standing around me who deserve the credit. Sometimes having to fight against a lot of pressure, they found a way to get a lot done for this city. So I just want to start with that appreciation for a very very productive and impressive performance.
I’m going to talk about Speaker Silver in just a moment and offer my particular appreciation to him, but let me just mention all of the members of the Assembly who are present. If I miss anyone, Mr. Speaker, please correct me. I believe my staff has gone to the effort of even semi-alphabetizing. Okay. Here we go – I’ve got an update. So, it would’ve been Jeff Aubrey as the first one with an A, Mike Benedetto, Jim Brennan, Steve Cymbrowitz, Maritza Davila – Maritza, do you like Davila or Davila? Davila. Sometimes I get it wrong – Davila, my apology. Phil Goldfeder, Dov Hikind, Rhoda Jacobs, Joe Lentol, Walter Mosley, Felix Ortiz, Robert Rodriguez, Michael Simanowitz, Jose Rivera, and let’s see if I got – Francisco Moya, I got Robert Rodriguez – Michael Dendekker, and Nily Rozic. I think I got everybody there. Tell me if I missed anyone.
So, so much progress was made in the budget and in terms of the legislative actions that were taken. But there are also important moments where legislation was considered and the question was how could the city of New York best work with the legislature for an outcome that really helped our people? And this brings us to the issue of special education. As many of you may know, for the years as public advocate, even before that as a councilmember, I worked on this issue. And I felt very strongly as a public school parent myself that parents were often not treated fairly. I met with parents from all over the city who felt that their needs were not met, that their concerns were not answered, that they were put through a very difficult and often litigious process – and that for those who didn’t have resources, the process was even worse – all for families who were dealing with the challenge of having a child with special needs, in some cases multiple children with special needs. So for years I felt that there was an injustice that had to be addressed. And as public advocate, we did a series of reports and took action to try and support parents of children with special needs. We worked closely with advocacy groups all over the city. And what was increasingly clear was we needed a streamlined, parent-friendly, family-friendly, respectful approach that didn’t matter how good your lawyers were or how much money you had to spend on lawyers, but actually tried to address the family’s needs.
I also had a particular experience as a parent myself, because Chiara and Dante went to a school that was an inclusion school. The inclusion model means 50 percent, in this instance, 50 percent special education kids and 50 percent general education kids. Chancellor Fariña knows this school well – PS 372 in Brooklyn. And so, in every single class that my kids were in over the whole time they were there – pre-k to fifth grade – there were lots of kids with special needs of every kind from all over our community.And so I got to know parents and got to hear from them what their challenges were, and really came to admire parents who struggled their way through. It’s hard to be a parent in New York City. It’s doubly hard when your child has special needs, particularly if there are severe special needs. And I got to know parents first-hand and heard from them how they needed a better approach. And so, in these last days, as the opportunity arose to do something foundational and take matters into our hands here in New York City and right some wrongs, we were excited to do it and we found tremendous partners in that effort in Albany. And again, I’m going to speak about them in one minute, but I want to frame this.
Remember that the vast vast majority of children who have disabilities are well served by our public school system. I do want to make clear that we’ve got immense capacity to serve kids with special needs and we do it well, but clearly there are some families whose needs cannot be met – and that’s where the conflicts have come in and that’s where we want to act decisively to end the conflict and find an appropriate way forward. We do everything we can to met every child’s individual educational program in our public schools. And when parents determine that their public school can’t – their local schools cannot meet their needs – and they find a private school that can better meet the needs, that’s where we should be working with them to a productive solution. Parents have the right, under federal law, to seek tuition reimbursement. And the DOE often agrees with parents that their chosen school is appropriate. But even in some cases where the DOE and parents have agreed, the process, historically, of settling the cases dragged out for too long. So parents – even those with legitimate, clear claims – found themselves caught in needless bureaucratic delays and forced to pay thousands and thousands of dollars they just didn’t have. When they prevailed, then parents often found themselves waiting months and months for reimbursement checks. So let’s face it – the system penalized parents – struggling parents – in many many ways, even when it was clear the parents’ claim was appropriate. Well that might’ve been a good litigation strategy, if all you cared about was litigation and all you cared about was the bottom line – that might’ve been the good litigation strategy, but it was not a humane way to run a school system. It was not fair to parents. It was not fair to families. It was not fair to the children who had the needs.
So, today we’re turning the page. We’re starting on a new approach. And I have to say at the outset that Chancellor Fariña, who has a long history of addressing the needs of parents and children, of stopping some of the bureaucratic madness and finding ways to serve people better, and that everyone understands her history is first as a renowned teacher, then as a renowned principal, long before she became Chancellor, she has been so pivotally important to coming to a plan that can allow us all to treat parents and students better. And I want to thank Chancellor Fariña for all that she does.
Our colleagues in Albany who worked with us to find a solution – far-reaching, an immediate solution – I have to say, starting with Speaker Silver, in all my conversations with Speaker Silver, first of all, I start every conversation with immense respect for what the speaker’s done for this city. And we all know the phrase what have you done for me lately? Well, even if you like that way of thinking, I harken back to April and I know that we have full-day pre-k for every child in this city, largely because of the efforts of Speaker Silver. And that is doing a lot for us lately.
So in many ways he was one of the great heroes of the effort to bring early childhood education to this city in a truly universal manner. It’s something he’s been working on for almost 20 years. So I have a lot of appreciation, a lot of respect. When Speaker Silver talks to me about education, he has my full and immediate attention. And he said we have to find a solution that will affect people starting now. There was no question about that. And I want to thank you for all the support you’ve given. I want to thank you for working with us creatively and productively so we could find the solution that met your standards.
This whole discussion emanated from a legislative process – a good legislative process – that raised the concerns of people in need and demanded action. And, by the way, I always say to our colleagues in the legislature, if we can provide the answer, if we can show you the progress, give us that chance to do it. If we don’t provide the progress, the legislature, of course, has every right to act.
I want to thank all of my colleagues for recognizing that we meant business here in New York City and we were ready to make these changes and make them now. To the assembly lead sponsor of the legislation in this area – Assembly Member Helene Weinstein – I want to thank you.
I’ve had the honor of working with you for many years and you’re known for your integrity and your deep concern for families. And thank you for what you’ve done to bring us to this day. And then, a long-standing friend and colleague, going back we were rookies together – we literally ran for city council and became city council members the same day in neighboring districts – and Simcha Felder and I – now elevated to the state senate – but as councilmembers we worked together constantly on the needs of children and families. It was a constant theme in what we did. Remember the sanitation trucks? Making sure the sanitation truck routes weren’t at the same time as the school bus routes. We’ve done a lot together and I want to thank him for everything he’s done. He’s been a real friend in the senate for the city of New York in many ways and gotten a lot done. Thank you, Senator Felder.
And there’s a lot of people here today who have been advocates on this issue. Again, I have a rich history of talking to advocates from all over the city for years. This was often a fairly lonely struggle. Advocates for families who had children with special needs often felt they weren’t being heard. It was often very hard to get an audience at City Hall or at the Tweed building. We know that the world turns because people at the grassroots demand it, people organize and make their voices heard. So to all of the advocates and all the people who spoke up in this room, this is your victory too, and congratulations to all of you.
Now, the issue here is – this is a very human, tangible, real issue we’re talking about. This is not abstract public policy. This is not something that affects people in a small way. The issue we’re talking about here is fundamental. Families who are struggling to address the needs of a child who, again, are often stressed and stretched in every way, economically and otherwise – it’s time-consuming and difficult to help a child with special needs. You often feel as a parent that you don’t have the answers you wish you had, you feel sometimes powerless.
I want to tell you one story that really puts a point on this and explains why, for so many of us, it was important to act and act now. It’s a story of a family that had twin boys, a family living in Washington Heights. Twin boys diagnosed with severe learning disabilities. I’m not going to mention their names for privacy reasons, but just picture a family in Washington Heights, and not one child, but two children, twin boys, with severe disabilities. Both boys had central auditory processing disorders and anxiety disorders. One of the boys additionally had selective mutism, which led him to often not speak. Both were below grade level in reading and math. The public school they attended simply couldn’t provide the help they needed. The mother—a single parent, a working mom, struggling every day—she tried everything she could to get her boys into the right program. But there simply wasn’t anything available in the public system that fit.
She tried everything she knew how to do. Finally she found a private school setting that worked. She enrolled her boys despite knowing she couldn’t pay the tuition for long. She did what any parent would do and tried to find a path forward. And the school provided the boys one-on-one therapy in small group setting and very quickly—because of the help they were getting—these boys made progress. The one with the most severe disabilities is now able to write in clear paragraphs and do multiplication and division because he got the help he needed. And by definition the mother is thrilled that she could help her children.
So it would be lovely to end the story there, but it gets a little worse after that. This mother is still fighting, still tied up, in red tape. Her case from September 2013 is still not resolved. She’s paying out of pocket—still—even though she’s in the right, she’s paying out of pocket still and struggling every day financially. That’s not acceptable. That is not what any of us came here to allow to happen and it sends the wrong message to parents and children. It tells them not to get help instead of to do what is the instinct of any parent and seek the help they need. And it certainly flies in the face of the progressive values that I have set for this administration.
So starting this fall, when parents of children with disabilities seek tuition reimbursement, things will be different, and it will start this September. DOE will do the following things. One: work to settle as many cases as possible within a 15-day timeframe – one five – a 15-day timeframe; and refrain from re-litigating cases once they are settled. When there is no change in the DOE’s recommended placement for a child, there is no reason to litigate again and again each year. If there is a change, that has to be looked at, but when there is no change there is no reason for additional litigation. In addition, the Department of Education will expedite payments to families and will streamline paperwork. We will knock down barriers for children with developmental disabilities and ease burdens on families.That is the mandate – to make this easier and better for families to get money back in their hands.
I’m going to say this, because I think it’s important to be straightforward and clear. We do know that sometimes, parents pursue something that doesn’t make sense. That’s part of what we have to grapple with too. Again, vast majority of parents, vast majority of our children, are served well in our existing public schools. A number of parents seek a private placement – they have every right to – and we’re going to help them get it faster, better, with clearer reimbursement etcetera.
When we know that a particular claim doesn’t make sense, when the DOE has offered already an appropriate placement, when parents don’t choose a private school that actually meets the needs of the children educationally, or when parents do not attempt to cooperate with DOE to serve the child – in those cases, we reserve the right to take legal action if that’s the only measure. But that will be the exception, not the norm. We believe in a parent-friendly, family-friendly approach, that we’re going to be able to come to a resolution quickly in the vast majority of cases, and help parents get what they need.
This announcement today is an important reform, and, like everything else we’re doing in the area of education, we intend to do it immediately. You’ve seen what we’re doing with pre-K. You’ve seen what we’re doing with summer enrichment programs and after-school programs for middle school students. We don’t wait to implement these changes – you certainly see some striking changes and reforms in the new teachers’ contract. The game plan here is to change our approach to education, change our approach to children and families, right now, starting this year, in a big way. Chancellor Fariña has provided extraordinary leadership, and we keep setting the bar high, she keeps setting the bar high for her team, but these changes have to happen now and they will.
With that, I want to thank again the man who did so much to help this city move forward on education in so many ways – and this year has been a banner year for his efforts. I’d like to welcome to the podium the Speaker of the State Assembly, Shelly Silver.
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