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Campaign for Fiscal Equity

Francine Goldstein

Fran Goldstein, Supervising Superintendent of the Division of Student Support Services, New York City Board of Education, addressed the numerous problems of special education services in NYC schools. She confirmed Dr. Susan Erber’s testimony that the “mandate relief” program of the mid 1990’s that reduced state aid to NYC resulted in increased special education class size.

Ms. Goldstein explained that there is higher percentage of restrictive placements of special ed students in NYC for two reasons: centralization historically required by state law, and a long history of inadequate resources in general education.

In 1969, the legislature established a decentralized school structure for the NYC school district. Under the statute, most operational authority to run the elementary and junior high schools was placed in the 32 community school districts. However, the Legislature chose to retain all operating authority over special ed in the Chancellor and the central administration -- thus taking authority for special ed instruction out of the hands of the local principals and superintendents. This centralization promoted restrictive placements. Finally, in 1996, the Legislature amended the decentralization law and gave the Chancellor the authority to fully decentralize special ed services.

The number of restrictive placement has also been fueled by a lack of resources in the school system. In the fiscal crisis of the 1970s, support services in the public schools were stripped to a bare minimum. According to Ms. Goldstein, “sufficient resources were never provided to rebuild the devastated general education system. Whatever additional funds the system managed to obtain were quickly funneled into the burgeoning special education system” which was mandated to provide small classes and support services to students designated as having a disability. Often, this left teachers of students with special needs with no choice but to assign those students to special education.

Ms. Goldstein testified that the City has recently tried to rectify this problem. In 1996, the NYC public schools developed a comprehensive special education reform plan in an effort to comply with federal and state law requiring that students receive special education and related services in the “least restrictive environment” (LRE). New York City recently drafted a new Continuum of Services that potentially can bring these LRE reforms to all schools, but the system currently lacks sufficient funding to fully implement the continuum.

Testimony given on January 7 & 11, 2000

Parents from across the state march on the Capitol in Albany to show support for CFE.
CFE Litigation CFE v. State of New York
In 2006, after 13 years in the Courts, the New York State Court of Appeals affirmed the right of every public school student in New York to the opportunity for a sound basic education and the state’s responsibility to adequately fund this right, but deferred to the Governor and the Legislature to determine the appropriate amount. more >