August 4, 2021


by: admin


Tags: Bronx, education, Increase, NYC, services, special


Categories: Special needs education

NYC to extend Bronx particular training providers

A federal district judge approved a settlement agreement between the Department of Education and disability rights attorneys in the Bronx that resolved a four-year-old lawsuit that challenged the city’s process of assigning certain special education services.

The agreement, which is in force for three years, requires the Ministry of Education to make a number of changes in the way it provides so-called “related services”, which include occupational therapy and psychological counseling and other support for students with disabilities.

Many schools do not have enough on-site staff to provide these services to all eligible students. In this case, the schools can issue the parents with a voucher to cover the cost of the service. However, a number of obstacles prevent parents from using coupons. For example, families sometimes struggle to find vendors willing to travel to their neighborhood, and many vendors just don’t respond or stop taking on customers.

As a result, vouchers often remain unused. Around half of the 9,154 vouchers issued remained unused in the 2015/16 school year, according to a report by the law firm. The voucher system puts the poorest parts of the city at a disadvantage, especially in far-reaching corners of the city that are more difficult to access for providers.

A 2017 class action lawsuit filed by the nonprofit Bronx Independent Living Services and two students with disabilities in the Bronx challenged the voucher system. The lawsuit argued that the Ministry of Education failed to provide adequate services and was breaking the law.

Last month – four years after the initial lawsuit – a judge approved a settlement that applies to students in the Bronx who have individualized educational programs, or IEPs. The agreement does not completely cancel the voucher program, but it does include guidelines aimed at reducing the city’s reliance on this system.

For example, the education department needs to increase the number of occupational therapy supervisor positions in the Bronx from three to five. It will also increase funding for a lending program by 25% to attract university students studying to become related services for the education department. The hiring decision must also be made earlier, before the fall semester.

“The focus is on postponing the hiring earlier in the summer in the hopes that this can allow the DOE to better plan its needs for the upcoming school year,” said Rebecca Serbin, associate attorney for Disability Rights Advocates, serving as plaintiff acted “lawyer in the lawsuit.

Other guidelines in the agreement are designed to help make the family voucher system work more efficiently in the Bronx. In some cases, students wait weeks to receive their vouchers, which in turn delays the start of their services. The comparison contains detailed deadlines for the issue of vouchers. (In most cases, they must be delivered within 16 days of the start of school.)

In addition, the schools are obliged to designate an extracurricular “service authorization liaison office” whose task it is to support parents in using their vouchers or making use of make-up services. Education must also ensure that the list of providers is accurate and up-to-date.

“It is critical for our community to have access to the services they need, when they need them,” said Brett Eisenberg, executive director of Bronx Independent Living Services, a nonprofit that is referred to as plaintiff on the case acted and collaborated with students disabilities. “This agreement really ensures that this happens.”

The agreement comes at a time when the Department of Education is struggling to provide adequate services to students with disabilities in the five counties. During the pandemic, staff shortages and virtual learning resulted in thousands of students missing out on vital services such as physical and occupational therapy that were difficult to manage virtually.

In recognition of these disruptions, city officials announced intensive efforts to help students with IEPs. All of these students, around 200,000, are entitled to a special program after school and on Saturdays.

A Saturday programming option is also provided in the settlement agreement. Bronx students who are eligible for makeup-related services can take advantage of the “Saturday Sites” that offer occupational therapy and speech therapy. For all other make-up-related services, the education department makes alternative arrangements.

In a statement, the Ministry of Education recognized the settlement as a step forward for students with disabilities.

“It is vital that the needs of all students with disabilities are met and we are pleased to have reached this agreement through which we will invest in new programs, processes and resources that will make it easier for families to receive support.” , Education Department Spokesperson Katie O’Hanlon wrote in an email. “We look forward to the progress and the real results students will get from the settlement.”

However, some wonder if the agreement goes far enough to address issues with the voucher system.

Lori Podvesker, policy expert at INCLUDEnyc, an advocacy group focused on special education, noted that in order to receive makeup services, families must apply for the education department, a process that puts the burden of access to services back on parents .

“It is outrageous that they are putting the burden back on the families,” said Podvesker. She added that she would like to see the settlement document obligations extended beyond the Bronx to the other four counties.

“These problems aren’t just limited to the Bronx,” she said. “It’s ubiquitous.”


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