Archives For Special Education

I have been a proud NYC special education teacher since 2002. At the same time, I have to admit that we face untenable conditions. Currently, there are systemic shortages of time, resources, and staffing. Many of my colleagues and our students with special needs feel that they are not being heard or respected. We, the experts, are rarely called upon to inform decisions around school funding, policies that impact our students’ services, and the amount of paperwork we are required to complete. Piecemeal grievances and special education complaints are not enough to fix the root of the problem.

 

Jia Lee

 

A major problem is the Fair Student Funding formula, implemented under Chancellor Joel Klein, which changed the way schools are funded. Instead of having a separate budget for staffing needs, based on salary scale and special education provider needs, we now have a formula which allocates funding per pupil. Students with IEPs come with 1.5x the amount. This does not prioritize staffing needs but puts schools in a complicated position of being incentivized to hire fewer people and those who are lower on the salary scale. So, instead of putting students’ needs first, there is immense pressure to keep within a lean production budget. Our current union leadership has maintained support of the funding formula, as well as mayoral control, which has kept us in a powerless state as educators. Currently, the largest expenditure is in special education lawsuits with the city spending in 2017, $244.1 million in private school tuition for special education services. This is unacceptable in the largest and one of the wealthiest cities in the world. Imagine if that amount of funding was provided to schools where we, the specialists who work directly and understand the needs of our students the most, had more democratic voice. Instead, our union leadership has supported a multi-million dollar special education racket on the backs of our neediest students. We cannot wait for those in power to gain the sensibilities required to put power back into the hands who can make things better for our students and our working conditions. We need a union that leads from those who are working in the schools, and that is why I am running for the position of V.P. of Special Education.

-Jia Lee, Teacher and  UFT Chapter Leader at The Earth School

 

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By Mindy Rosier

I attended my first CEC75 meeting on 01/22/15 in the conference room at Tweed and overall found it to be a very informative meeting filled with concerned parents.

Superintendent Gary Hecht began this meeting because Chancellor Farina was running late from another meeting. He announced that the annual Parent Engagement events in the boroughs will begin in April and encouraged all to attend. The dates and locations for these events can be found on the D75 calendar of events.

Chancellor Farina arrived a few minutes later and began her portion by sharing that there will now be a total of 7 borough D75 offices.They will be fully staffed and all services needed can and will be assessed based on need. She will also chose their directors.

She then went on to discuss principals and how they will be dealt with. A three tier system for supervision will based on how those principals are doing and their needs. The better the principal the more autonomy they will receive.

As for schools themselves, she does not want any of them to be closed. Farina feels they need to be helped first before being made accountable.

Farina strongly feels that teachers should be trained in language learning via speech practices. She highly believes in these practices and feels all educators and their students would benefit from training. Speech services will be a mission for her.

She feels that inclusion is an issue. It is not for everybody. She wants to make sure all of those students are getting the appropriate support and “how many kids are too many kids” needs to be properly evaluated.

Farina is a firm believer in assisted technology and she already has several pilot programs in effect.

She too stressed Parent Engagement days in the different boroughs and reiterated those dates and where they could be found.

Farina then moved on to how we must give proper training to leaders and that they must match AP’s to their students. In other words, a former elementary special education teacher turned AP, will be assigned to an elementary school.

She praised all of the new Pre-K programs and shared how they all will truly make a difference. She encouraged these young children to draw as they are future indicators on how those students will be. She wants assessment folders to contain lots of artwork. (She even went on that they will be using children’s artwork to decorate the new borough offices.)

Finally, Farina discussed that we must know about the needs of the city. She has put faith in superintendents to support and to supervise and emphasized that they WILL be held accountable.

*Opened up for questions-

I asked Farina the question about Cuomo’s plan of 50% of our evaluations based on tests. She made a face and then she kind of tap danced around the question. Farina went on about how teachers need to be evaluated. I did not appreciate her trying to change the angle of my question. I was very clear and I know she understood me so I said that evaluations were not the problem, it’s being tied to the tests that is the problem. She then went on to say that there is a think tank already formed and they “need to figure out target progress.” She concluded her “non-explanations” by saying that she hears me…. (I had discussed her response with another attendee and he felt she seemed to be skeptical about basing evaluations on computers.) Maybe it is too early to have a definitive answer but it is not too early to come up with a “what-if?” plan. I was completely dissatisfied with her response. If there is in fact a “think tank,” who is in it? Educators? Parents? Retail workers? After quickly going through a couple of more questions, she left the conference area.

The superintendent of D75, Gary Hecht then took some questions. Surprisingly, he gave a lot of great responses. A few parents brought up the Common Core with their children’s instruction. He stressed that the CC must be aligned with the capabilities of the student. Hecht gave an example that a child in gen ed in the 8th grade is different than an 8th grade student in special ed. Having an IEP “means we have to see kids differently.” “We need to look at data, look at IEP’s.” He feels that current measures are not appropriate. “They are too challenging and kids will react.” I took this as an opportunity to ask him about high stakes testing and how I feel it is wrong to subject our students to them. Hecht said he is against them because the kids suffer. He agreed with me that it is heartbreaking seeing those kids struggle like they have been. Hecht explained that since those tests come from a state level, nothing can be done right now. He believes alternate assessments would be best for them. A new commissioner will be chosen soon and a dialogue on testing will be one of the priorities. Hecht continued that IEP’s should be the determining factor of achievement and growth. He encouraged all of us to contact NYS Regent Dr. Betty Rosa.  She is a former D75 principal from D6.

Hecht also said that parents, teachers, advocates, etc. must work collectively together to say what’s best for our students.

He answered a few more questions before answering one from a parent who asked about Safety Agents in schools. Hecht explained that they have been working closely with Safety Agents and Police Departments. There has been training sessions to help Safety Agents understand the needs of these D75 schools.

Although I was not happy with Farina, I saw a light of hope in Hecht. I truly hope he will not disappoint.

Sign the Petition!

Occupational and physical therapists are an unseen part of New York City’s education community. But without OTs and PTs, thousands of the city’s promising – yet disabled – students would fall through the cracks.

That’s why we’re alarmed that these therapists continue to be valued less than their equally critical peers: the teachers, social workers, school psychologists and others – who along with OTs and PTs provide immeasurable support for the city’s youths.  Surprisingly, experienced OTs and PTs are paid 38 percent less than teachers and speech therapists with the same levels of education.

New York City’s OTs and PTs are quietly turning around the lives of physically and emotionally challenged students, helping them overcome profound disabilities to reach their potential in the classroom. That’s not just good for families – it saves taxpayers money and generates revenues for the school system.

All we ask for is fairness. Without equity, students with disabilities are in danger of losing a critical support network, a lifeline that will help them graduate and become productive New Yorkers.

The best OTs and PTs often choose other jobs where they’re paid according to their value. Those who stay – because of their commitment to the kids they’ve helped for years – often work second jobs to support their families.

We can all agree that our school children are our most precious resource. They represent the future of our wonderful city. Helping OTs and PTs remain in the New York City School System is another tool to help vulnerable students overcome obstacles and thrive.

Let’s work together in support of our children. Let’s work together to support our OTs and PTs.

Sign the Petition!

MORE congratulates the UFT for the financial compensation they’ve earned our Special Education colleagues across the city. The SESIS case is another example of UFT leadership pursuing the same bureaucratic, top-down strategy it always pursues. Sometimes that strategy yields small victories. Nonetheless, because of this strategy the UFT is losing the war on several fronts.  Continue Reading…