South Huntington school trustee Edward J. Nitkewicz writes in response to a Newsday opinion piece.
I am a trustee of the South Huntington Union Free School District school board and the father of a thirteen year old boy who suffers from Autism. Timothy Kremer of the New York State School Boards Association urges Governor Cuomo to address three areas of mandate relief in his second year: relief from the Triborough Amendment, relief from special education services and relief from competitive bidding restrictions.
It is unacceptable that the New York State School Boards Association should advocate for “relief” from providing our neediest children with Special Education services that were denied until 1975. In 1972, when the horrors of Willowbrook State School in Staten Island were uncovered and revealed to the world that children with special needs were simply being warehoused because they were deemed by some to be “uneducable.”
Soon thereafter, the federal government passed the precursor to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act which set a minimum standard for education of our neediest children. The State of New York has followed the lead of most states by providing more than just the “bare minimum” to children with special needs.
Mr. Kremer would like the burden of proof in special education disputes to revert back to the family. As Mr. Kremer is aware, families cannot retain counsel on a “contingent” basis and instead must hire attorneys on an hourly basis to dispute unreasonable denials of requests for necessary services.
Of course, school districts have the luxury of calling professional educators and administrators better versed than parents in matters of special education to testify in adversary proceedings. Medical doctors, psychiatrists and therapists charge financially burdened families substantial fees to prepare reports and testify.
I agree that all education services should be reviewed and considered for savings and efficiency during these difficult times. I am disappointed that the New York State School Boards Association, of which I am a member, has elected to identify students with special needs as “an area ripe for savings."