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New York City: Almost 10,000 complaints over lack of SPED services last year

Dec 5, 2019, Chalkbeat: NYC special education cases face ‘alarming’ delays as children wait for help https://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/ny/2019/12/02/nyc-special-education-cases-face-alarming-delays-as-children-wait-for-help/ The city’s troubled system for handling complaints filed by parents of special education students has hit what lawyers are calling an “unprecedented and alarming” snag: An ongoing stretch with hearing officers unable to take on new cases. Attorneys at Regina Skyer and Associates in Manhattan said they’ve received more than a dozen emails from the city Department of Education since Nov. 26 stating their clients would be placed on a waiting list rather than have their cases assigned to an impartial hearing officer. Under state law, the city education department has a maximum of two days to assign a hearing officer to a case once a complaint has been received. The city Department of Education said Monday there are only five hearing officers currently available to take on additional cases. In letters sent Wednesday to elected officials in Albany and to education officials at the state and city education departments, the Skyer firm’s attorneys called the lack of available hearing officers “a violation of the civil rights of students with disabilities.” “What this means on a human level is disabled children going without needed services, schools and hard-working providers not being paid, and families facing the stress and hardship of mounting debt without an end in sight,” the letters read. “It is clear that we are lacking needed governmental leadership in addressing this issue.” The number of complaints hit a high of nearly 10,000 in the last school year…. Surging Complaints Advocates and parents say the city and state education departments share blame for ongoing problems. The State Education Department has oversight over the special education system, including the hiring of hearing officers and setting their maximum pay rate — which is currently at $100 per hour. In chiding the state, however, the independent review cited a court ruling that noted the “state’s role amounts to more than creating and publishing some procedures and then waiting for the phone to ring.” Meanwhile, the city education department is responsible for administering the program, including setting the exact rate of pay — which is typically lower than the maximum because the city has decided to pay by task, not by the hour. The city education department also has struggled to mail paychecks out on time, parents and advocates say….