Over 400 people, including parents, children, teaching staff, school leaders and provider association members, filled the CUNY Graduate Center auditorium in support of the children, families and providers of 4410 and 853 special education programs.
The private, nonprofit organizations that provide preschool and school-age programs for thousands of students with special needs are fast approaching a crisis point. The COPA Teacher and Teacher Assistant Survey of providers, as well as other data that IAC has collected on fiscal losses, teacher turnover rates, and salary disparities with public schools, was shared to highlight the devastating impact on these critical services.
“The programs are life-transforming for these kids and yet the State is not funding them adequately and that’s threatening the whole system,” said Chris Treiber, Associate Executive Director of the Interagency Council of Developmental Disabilities Agencies.
The children who attend our 4410 and 853 schools are the public schools’ children, many of them diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, or other developmental disabilities, and are placed by their school district's Committee on Special Education (CSE) or Committee on Preschool Special Education (CPSE) only after all public settings have been considered and determined inadequate to meet the needs of the student. Yet these schools have been inadequately funded for years and as a result, our schools can no longer recruit and retain certified teachers.
Two representatives from DDI offered their voice to these issues. Early Childhood Teacher Barbara Grunenberg shared the impact of inadequate funding from someone who has worked in the profession for nearly forty years. Emily McGibbons, a Teacher for school-age students at DDI, explained the impact that high turnover and teaching vacancies is having on co-workers and, most especially, the children. There were other professional staff, family members, and student alumni of DDI’s programs who also shared in the event.
Preschool special education programs have suffered huge financial losses in the past few years and are now closing at an alarming rate. We know that in the past three years, 61 preschool special education programs have closed statewide and 31 of them were in New York City. Arnold Diaz from PIX 11 news recently reported on the crisis.