Stories and Grievances: Special Education
New York State Keeps Parents and Teachers Involved in the IEP and Special Education Process
Meetings of parents and advocates convinced the State Education Department to keep procedural safeguards in place to protect special education children in New York State. This is a big win for the children.
State Education Department agrees to keep IEP teams intact
Jun 29, 2005 2:35 PM
Big win for special ed students
Children with disabilities were the winners this week when the State Education Department, under intense pressure from parents, advocates, disability groups and UFT/NYSUT leaders and members, dropped plans to water down special-ed protections.
The SED proposal, which included amendments to State Education Law and Commissioner's Regulations, would have allowed parents and school officials to excuse general and special education teachers, service providers and school psychologists from CSE meetings, to change IEPs after the annual review without a team meeting and to waive triennial reevaluations. These changes, while permitted by the recently reauthorized Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, were not required to be adopted by New York State, according to advocates and union representatives because States have long been permitted to maintain higher standards for students with disabilities.
Nearly two hundred people, including dozens of UFT members, attended the standing-room only public hearing at DOE Headquarters on June 8th to tell SED officials what they thought of SED's plans. Special education teachers, speech therapists, guidance counselors, school psychologists and social workers joined parents and advocates in recounting their experiences with the City's dysfunctional special education bureaucracy. Advocates for Children delivered a 3-inch think binder filled with email messages from parents who could not attend the hearing but wanted to be heard on the issues. Meanwhile, NYSUT, parent advocates and disability group representatives made the case to the State Legislature.
The decision to leave procedures alone was announced at a June 21 Regents meeting, when Deputy Commissioner Becky Cort reported that proposed legislative changes regarding excusal, changes in IEPs and triennial reevaluations were "off the table" and that the SED would be developing a revised regulatory package for consideration at the September meeting of the Board of Regents. She said a great deal of concern had been raised regarding these issues by a variety of groups and that the SED was no longer convinced that these changes were required by federal law.
Abandoning the effort to make state regulations conform to the looser federal rules means the state DOE will continue its past practice, which requires every member of an IEP team to be present for all team meetings. That victory also stops a growing pattern of abuse, where a portion of the team could rewrite IEPs after the annual review, and without a meeting of the IEP team. The decision also stops school officials from asking parents to waive triennial reevaluations.
This was a collaborative effort, and it was all 'win-win,'" according to UFT Vice President Carmen Alvarez. "They helped us, and we were pleased we could help them, too." Among those working with the UFT were Advocates for Children, the Learning Disabilities Association of New York and a number of other organizations.