Conditions in New York:
Under the federal Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, all students with disabilities are guaranteed a "free appropriate public education." New York State also has a complex set of laws and regulations to cover children with disabilities. Additional services may include separate programs or services like speech therapy, vision services, physical therapy or occupational therapy.
Services must be provided in the "least restrictive environment" (LRE) in order to give disabled students as much contact as possible with those who are not disabled. However, the law requires that students with disabilities who are placed in a general education setting must be given supplementary services. Currently, approximately 12% of the State's students receive some sort of special education.
New York City has more students referred to special education and more students placed in separate classes and separate settings than the national average. But the reason for this situation lies in the State's failure to provide the opportunity for a sound basic education in general education classrooms.
NYC's special educational system is overloaded because many students who should be receiving additional services in general education are being referred to special education. Too many general education classes are overcrowded, are taught by inexperienced teachers and lack support services. As a result, teachers in those classes who cannot meet their students' educational needs have no option but to refer those students to special education.
New York City schools have worked to reduce the number of referrals to special education: in the last year, referrals have dropped by 8,000 students, nearly 25%. NYC has also made strides towards putting more students in LRE placements. Doing so, however, is not free: these students must be given the additional services and learning conditions they need, including smaller classes, accessible facilities, and more highly trained teachers who receive more professional development. Giving these students a real educational opportunity will require more money, not less.
The City should continue to provide more opportunities for students in general education and in less restrictive placements. But that can only happen if the State lives up to its obligation: to provide the resources to make general education a place where all students can achieve and have the opportunity for a sound basic education.
State's anticipated position:
The State is expected to argue that large amounts of money are being wasted on costly special education programs. They may also suggest that, despite the requirements for special services, moving large numbers of students with special needs back into general classrooms would be an effective cost-cutting measure.
Parents from across the state march on the Capitol in Albany to show support for CFE.
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 >