New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has revealed plans to make it easier for students with special needs to receive public funding for private school education, if their parents believe that their needs are not being met in public school. The action forestalled a bill in the state legislature that would have mandated the changes.
The mayor said that in most cases, when a parent wished to move a child to private school for special education, the request would be resolved within 15 days. The city reserves the right to deny claims, which can lead to lengthy litigation if the parents appeal the decision, but the mayor said denial would be the exception, not the rule.
Parents receiving private school tuition funding would not have to reapply each year as long as the child’s special education plan does not change, and paperwork would be required only every three years, instead of every year.
Advocates for special needs students hailed the decision and said that it will be important to make sure the city follows through.
Court rulings have upheld the right of parents to ask the city to pay for private school when public schools do not meet their children’s needs, but the Bloomberg administration had disputed many such requests, saying that the cost was too high. The city spends about $45,000 annually to educate each special education student in public schools, compared to about $65,000 annually for private school tuition. The city is expected to pay more than $200 million in such cases in 2014.