Opinion: Targeting Special Ed Is Unacceptable

Nitkewicz challenges idea that funding is "an area ripe for savings."

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."

Long Time Res. January 16, 2012 at 11:20 PM
Thank you Ed for keeping us informed, and fighting the ignorant. We all know where the financial problem is. This is not it. Maybe we can have another fourteen hours of budget meetings to discuss 18% of the budget, and two hours to discuss 82% of it. Let's strip all of the services and activities from the kids until there is nothing left, then we will have to fix the real problem. Special Ed kids deserve the educational services, and some type of a diploma if they complete their studies. "Ripe for savings" please.
Michael Balk January 17, 2012 at 01:35 AM
Mr. Nitkewicz thank you for your rebuttal to Mr. Kremer’ op ed piece in Newsday. I missed Mr. Kremer's article and after reading the piece found that it was the type of advocacy one expects from an industry lobbyist. In the section concerning Special Education, Kremer cites both the opportunity to reduce funding but also to restrict parental rights by changing the burden of proof. As for funding, one would expect a person dedicated to representing the interest of education to argue for more funding not to simply reduce our collective standards. Limiting parents ability to advocate on behalf of their children via the legal system, seems frankly more a convenience to his employers than public policy. My assumption is that Mr. Kremer has received a significant amount of criticism by the educational community, including members of school boards. Prior to writing this post, I sent an e-mail to my Assemblyman Andrew P. Raia asking for his comment on the op ed. I encourage everyone to do the same. Cutting funding for the most needing in our school population while advocating a reduction in parent's ability to positively effect their children's education by making school districts accountable - two radical notions that seem completely out of the main stream of our culture.
Kim January 17, 2012 at 01:59 AM
beautifully said Mr Balk
Jen LaVertu January 17, 2012 at 02:00 AM
Very well said Mr Balk. Thank you.
Kirstin February 21, 2012 at 02:39 PM
I couldn't agree with you more, Jim R. South Huntington chose to eliminate their Challenge and Beyond programs last year and offer an enrichment program afterschool at parents' expense. Until the great State of New York MANDATES Gifted Education in our schools, we will continue to see programs for the gifted cut from our school budgets. Sad but true...


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