The New York State Budget is being forced through by our Democrat In Name Only Leader, Governor Cuomo. Yesterday and today some Deaf groups began cheering, mostly because of a statement by Dr. Mowl, President of the 4201 Schools Association, claiming that full funding has been restored to schools. But from what I’m reading we have barely ten per cent of our funding restored by the State under the current plan; the rest is supposed be be given up front by the school district with the expectation of reimbursement later.
Yes, the same school districts that originally couldn’t afford services in the first place, inspiring the original protests. “Rather than a direct grant to the institutions, students’ local school districts would pay the money up front and would be reimbursed. Under the governor’s budget proposal, the districts would have been reimbursed at 85 percent. The budget agreement would pay back the districts at 100 percent.” (So says this article, which also, in a seeming contradiction, points out that nobody has seen the specific figures or been told how this funding will work. I noticed nobody seems to know when the reimbursement might happen, either.)
The Special Education commission and mayor of New York certainly aren’t cheering, and they claim that the proposals are very confusing and that they are still working to understand them. Deaf schools also are frustrated. According to Principal Joe Catavero from St. Joseph’s School for the Deaf, “The districts themselves have been cut so we are concerned about the districts being able to forward the money to us without using it for other needs they might have.” Estimated amounts of the cuts to education in New York total just over one billion dollars, and have caused leaders from cities all over to cry out, so his concern is warranted.
How is this “sparing” our schools? I have no idea how that would work – I can conceive of chaos as each district has its own reaction to needing to pay for students with different needs. I certainly don’t yet see a reason to start cheering, not until I see the appropriate and relevant text and it’s been passed into law. I want commitment beyond the words of somebody’s aide, or private conversations.
What was of even more concern to me in the original draft was an item saying that the state could have the power to write IEPs. Individualized Education Plans determine what services a child needs and what kind of school is the least restrictive environment for them. If this is still true in the new draft, then all this budget stuff is just a shell game – the state will decide what children need, not teachers, not informed parents, and they can bulldoze through any kind of localization they like. It’s a nasty little back door that destroys what’s been a very useful tool improving education for all children.
Ten per cent is a good beginning, but we shouldn’t be ready to party yet. I’ll wait till I see the actual budget… and how this works out. But since those numbers haven’t been distributed yet – and the clock is ticking – I’m worried. Very worried. And would appreciate any helpful links to more information. The Democrat and Chronicle reports that Mowl signed through an interpreter: “I have faith in people,” and added “I always think that good will come out of everything.”
I have faith in people, certainly. As a student of American history, however, I’m aware that the promises of politicians are often so much hot air. I totally support all of Dr. Mowl’s efforts in this matter. I just want our community to learn the lessons of caution taught by this experience.