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NYC: 2,000 SPED preschool kids left without a place in school

Jan 30, 2020, The City (NYC): NEARLY 2,000 STUDENTS WITH SPECIAL NEEDS FACING PRESCHOOL LOCKOUT THIS SPRING https://thecity.nyc/2020/01/nearly-2000-kids-with-special-needs-facing-pre-k-lockout.html As many as 2,000 students with special needs could be left without an appropriate pre-kindergarten seat this spring, as New York City’s education department has not met demand, and private providers have struggled to keep their doors open. Even as Mayor Bill de Blasio has championed universal pre-K, which now covers all 4-year-olds, preschoolers with disabilities often sit at home for weeks or months — leaving them without supports during a crucial developmental period. The looming shortage is estimated at roughly 1,000 to 2,000 seats in coming months, according to a report released Thursday by Advocates for Children, with The Bronx facing the greatest potential shortage of any borough…. Many 3- and 4-year-old students with disabilities learn in general education classrooms and receive extra services. But students with more intensive needs can be designated for smaller special education classes — mostly run by nonprofit community organizations — and the city is facing an acute shortage of those seats. One major cause: More than 30 community-based preschools for students with disabilities have shut their doors in and around the city since 2014, amid years of nearly flat financing from the state…. Three-year-old Aiden Flores, who has autism and is nonverbal, has been at home in East New York without services since December, when he aged out of Early Intervention services for children with disabilities and became eligible to enroll in preschool. Even though the education department determined last October that Aiden needed a special education placement with a smaller class size, they have been unable to offer him one, leaving him without any instruction or the speech and behavior therapy that was helping him become more expressive and social…. Funding for private special education preschools is set and paid for by the state government, which in turn gets reimbursed 40% of the annual tab by the city and other counties across New York. A closer look at what’s plaguing these preschools shows a striking pattern dating back more than a decade. State officials have convened task forces that recommend changes to funding rates or reimbursement methodologies — but no notable overhauls have occurred…. Since 2015-16, the state Division of Budget has approved a 2% annual rate increase for special education preschool providers. That’s less than the boost for public schools or for private providers of special education classrooms for older kids. It’s also lower than the rate requested by the state Board of Regents each year, advocates say…. “There have been recent reports of significant numbers of preschool students in need of special education services who did not receive them because the services were not available,” he said….

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