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Educators retract Banks' comments on private school tuition

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Prime Minister David Banks faced fierce backlash after he said the city was spending too much money on private schools for students with disabilities, but education officials made these comments at a city council hearing on Wednesday. withdrew.

“I can assure you that the Prime Minister’s comment was not intended in the way it was presented. He has apologized on many forums for it,” said Christina Foti, the ministry’s special education director. said at a city council oversight hearing after several lawmakers brought it up. problem.

Last month, Banks told parent leaders that “people have found ways to abuse the system,” referring to private school payments that have ballooned to over $1 billion in recent years. He suggested the city could avoid budget cuts if the funds were diverted to public schools.

“We could pay for all the programming after school. All that stuff. This is the money that goes out the back door every day,” Banks said.

These statements point out that students with disabilities have a legal right to private placement when the city fails to adequately serve them in public schools. It provoked a violent and quick backlash from members of the department. It’s also not clear if the city will save money by serving these students in public schools without cutting services.

Banks’ comments, first reported by Chalkbeat, prompted several city council members on Wednesday to question officials about the department’s plans. It also sparked unusual briefings from higher education officials, including the Department of Education’s top attorney, the special education officer, and the vice-chancellor who oversees education. Banks did not attend Wednesday’s hearing.

“Parents are not cheating the system. The system is broken,” Rita Joseph, chairman of the city council’s school board, told the hearing. She said, “My office was contacted by an advocate [and] Parents outraged and stressed by the president’s proposal to cut an important source of funding for students with disabilities. ”

Contrary to Banks’ comments, educators are not trying to cut private school tuition directly, but want to build public programs that can better serve students with disabilities.

Caroline Quintana, Vice Chancellor for Education and Learning, said the ministry was “not trying to limit payments.” Instead, “we are looking for ways to provide families with what they need in advance,” she added. law. ”

The payment of private school fees to students with disabilities has long been controversial. From supporting students with relatively mild problems such as dyslexia to more severe intellectual developmental delays, some parents want their children to have adequate services often unavailable in traditional public schools. We believe that this system is essential to ensure that

However, securing tuition reimbursement can be a time-consuming process in favor of the family with time, money, or help from a free attorney.

Some students are placed directly into private schools by the education department when the city agrees that the public programs cannot adequately serve the students. Participation in these state-approved programs cost about $400 million last year, said Liz Vladeck, general counsel for the education sector.

Other families must sue the city to win tuition payments, often referred to as the Carter case.

Vladeck also noted that the number of special education due process complaints, where parents allege their children are not receiving adequate services, has exceeded 18,000, more than quadrupling over the past decade. did. The system for handling these complaints suffers from backlogs, but city officials are in the process of shifting oversight of that system.

Still, Department of Education officials say that while most families approach the tuition reimbursement process in good faith, others do not. , said it has “lawyers or consultants” who direct families to programs they run and charge upwards of $200,000 per student.

A spokesperson for the education department did not immediately provide evidence for that claim, nor did it respond to questions about whether the city would contest the placement of students in such cases.

“I know the Prime Minister is serious about ensuring that every dollar goes to the children, not to help someone build a business,” Vladek said. [Banks’] The comments were talking.

Maggie Moroff, a special education policy expert at Advocates for Children, said it was “important” if the city could serve more students with disabilities in traditional public schools. I am grateful that we are working to reflect on this,” he said. [Banks’] comment.

“Our concern is to ensure that all students with disabilities have the support they need here in New York City,” Moroff wrote.

Alex Zimmerman is a reporter for Chalkbeat New York covering public schools in New York City. Please contact Alex at