Archives for category: Special Education

You can’t say this often enough.

Money matters in politics.

Forget principle. Think money.

Andrew Cuomo wants to be re-elected Governor of New York with a large majority.

He has raised $33 million.

One of his biggest sources of money is Wall Street.

Wall Street loves charter schools.

Wall Street doesn’t love public schools.

The fact that only 3% of students in New York State attend charter schools doesn’t matter to Andrew Cuomo.

Cuomo now wants to take charge of dispensing millions in public funds to charter schools for construction, and he wants to assure them that they can have public space without paying rent. He wants the power to give free space to charters, no matter what Mayor Bill de Blasio says.

The fact that high-flying charters like Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy not only excludes children with special needs but literally pushes them out of their schools does not matter to Andrew Cuomo. Success Academy is for winners, not losers. Children with disabilities don’t belong in Success Academy’s charters.

I have been trying to remember something that his father Mario Cuomo said. I can’t find it. I have googled, and I can’t find it. Mario Cuomo, known for his eloquence, once explained that a parent gives more love and affection to the weakest child, not the strongest one. I remember it well, even though I can’t find the source. It was very moving, spoken by a decent and kind human being, a loving father.

Did he teach this lesson to Andrew? I think not. Andrew is ready to toss the neediest children overboard. They don’t have high test scores. They don’t count. They drag down scores. They don’t matter to Andrew Cuomo. In his eyes, they are dispensable. They are invisible. And the hedge fund managers, so necessary for his re-election, don’t like losers. They like high scores. They like winners.

And that is why Andrew Cuomo has become the lobbyist for the hedge-fund supported charter sector. After all, they did give him $800,000 for his re-election campaign.

In an article in the New York Daily News, which has been an outspoken champion of charter schools and Eva Moskowitz’s attacks on Mayor Bill de Blasio, Noah Gotbaum explains why Eva’s schools are “successful”: they leave out the neediest students.  Gotbaum is a public school parent and has children with special needs.

Gotbaum writes:

Eva Moskowitz is up in arms. Her schools are being “closed,” she says, and her students left “educationally homeless” by the mayor’s “war” on charters. She’s even called in the civil rights lawyers.

Truth is, it is Moskowitz and her patrons who are waging war — insisting that autistic and severely emotionally disturbed kids be forced out of their own building to make room for her high-performing “scholars.”

Contrary to the cry of the governor and hedge funders, Mayor de Blasio was absolutely right to reverse Success Academy’s co-location agreement and ensure our most vulnerable kids get needed services and a sound education.

Let’s examine the facts.

In the dying weeks of his administration, Mayor Bloomberg rammed through a record 45 new school-sharing arrangements — including 17 new charters. Late last month, de Blasio allowed 36 of these to move forward, including 14 of the 17 new charter co-locations. Moskowitz’s Success Academies network was handed five new sites. Hardly a war or personal vendetta.

Of the three reversed charter co-locations, two were for new Success charter elementary schools, neither of which has yet to accept a single student. This makes Success’ claims of “closed” schools and “evicted” students disingenuous at best.

The final charter rollback was the proposed move of Harlem Success 4’s fifth through seventh grades into the PS 149 building in Harlem, already home to PS/MS 149; the very-high-needs Mickey Mantle school, which is part of special education District 75; and another Success Academy charter.


To accommodate Moskowitz, Bloomberg’s DOE planned to move one-third of Mickey Mantle’s autistic and severely emotionally disturbed children out of the building, exiling them to three potential DOE sites long bus rides away from their northern Manhattan communities.

According to the city’s own Educational Impact Statement, the co-location would then have increased occupancy in the building for the remaining Mickey Mantle and PS 149 students to 132% — almost 400 students above the DOE’s already unrealistic “target capacity” of 1,200.
To accommodate the overcrowding, students in the public school would have been required to eat lunch at 10:40 am, but not students in Eva’s charter school.

Eva has been playing the victim of a vendetta on national television, but the real victims are the children who are pushed aside to make way for her students.
Read more:

Jere Hochman, superintendent of the Bedford Central School District in Westchester County, New York, points out the single biggest failure of the federal government: Congress mandated special-education services but has never paid the costs of its mandate.

Consequently, it is the children who are neediest who are most often neglected and left behind.

He writes:

“The word “education” does not appear in the Constitution.

“Where education is and does belong in the Federal Government is federal law: PL 94-142 now knows as IDEA. That, and civil rights issues, ARE the stuff of federal law and jurisdiction.

“The irony is that while Mr. Duncan et al pay attention to everything else except IDEA and civil rights, the children with the greatest needs are the most unserved.

“The irony is that while Mr. Duncan et al PROMOTE charter schools, vouchers, privatization, and testing every student regardless of disability; they do nothing about those same schools and procedures as they deny and dishearten children with disabilities.

“The irony is that while Mr. Obama et al wants us all to Race to the Top after Mr. Bush et all wanted No Child Left Behind, IDEA is grossly UNDERFUNDED from the 40% “full funding” promised to states at decade ago.

“And, then there’s the Federal Catch-22 – NCLB/RTTT requires annual testing of students in grades 3-8 and HS in English, reading, mathematics, etc. And, they exempt 1% (?) of the students with disabilities from the test while the rest sit in front of exams there is on chance of them having success or feeling good about their learning.

“We’ve always had standards, testing, and data storage issues yet for some reason this has everyone riled up unnecessarily (sorry but this is all fixable) while the real problems go unaddressed. The real problems? Underfunding of IDEA. Subjecting students with disabilities and limited English to standardized tests and double standardized testing. Segregated charter schools.

“Common core standards can be fixed. It’s the federal double standards that need work. And -that’s not news – that’s since 2002 with little outcry.”

One of the charter schools turned down by Mayor de Blasio was an effort by Eva Moskowitz to expand her Succes Academy elementary school into a middle school in Harlem. This would have displaced students with disabilities, on the theory that students with high scores should get preference over students with disabilities.

Here is a press release about a rally on Monday at 4 pm.

Which kids are really getting hurt in the charter wars?

Monday March 10, 4PM: Rally at Harlem School for Victims of Moskowitz Attempt to Push Out Special Ed Kids

Rally To Support de Blasio and Public Schools in Harlem Tomorrow

Where: Outside PS/ MS 149
When : 4: 00- 5:00 March 10
41 W. 117th St between Lennox Ave and Fifth
Subway: 2 or 3 to 116th

Even as Mayor Bill de Blasio’s handling of the issue of charter school co-locations has disappointed many, it has signaled the end of the era when the likes of entrepreneur Eva Moskowitz is granted whatever entrepreneur Eva Moskowitz wants, regardless of how many public school children are displaced, short changed and treated as if they are second rate citizens.

Over the past week and more, Moskowitz has received absurdly favorable press in New York City papers, even as she once again removed children from schools during school hours, this time to bus them to Albany as if they were adult lobbyists. After years of incredibly favorable treatment by the Bloomberg administration, de Blasio has had the political courage to stand up to Moskowitz and her billionaire backers.

As a result, Moskowitz and her friends in the media are doing all they can to paint her and Success Academies as victims and create the false appearance of overwhelming public support for Moskowitz and the horrific and destructive policies of Mike Bloomberg.

They have flooded the air-waves with slick, heart-tugging commercials, engaging in a multi-million dollar public relations campaign designed to do nothing less than trick the public into forgetting that de Blasio won by a margin of 75% over Joe Lhota, in large part because of de Blasio’s rejection of Bloomberg’s education policies, of which Moskowitz is such a perfect example.

Today we have an opportunity to once again reaffirm the public will, let Moskowitiz’s billionaires know that they do not own our schools and our city, and let de Blasio know he is not alone.

Please, if you can, come and let your voices be heard loud and clear. Come and remind Moskowitz’s billionaire backers that we live in a democracy. Above all, come and help insure that all of our children are shown the dignity that all children deserve.

Patrick Walsh
Chapter Leader
PS/ MS 149

With the peculiar disregard for children that characterizes the current state government of Michigan, the state hopes to reduce legal protections for children with disabilities.

According to Marcie Lipsett, the time to speak up and organize is NOW.

She writes:

“The Michigan Department of Education is proposing catastrophic changes to the rules that govern how students with disabilities and “Individualized Education Programs” (“IEP”S) are educated in our state’s public schools. The public comment period is SHORT and WAYS TO COMMENT ARE LIMITED. If these rule revisions become reality in Michigan they will lead to a landside of similar revisions in states across the U.S. Public Comment will only be accepted through three methods:

Online Submission Form:
Two Public Hearings, both on March 10th:
1:00 p.m.–3:00 p.m.
Detroit School of Arts
123 Selden Street
Detroit, Michigan 48201

4:00 p.m.–6:00 p.m.
Lansing Community College West Campus
5708 Cornerstone Drive
Lansing, Michigan 48917

U.S. Mail To:
Public Comment
Office of Special Education
Michigan Department of Education
P.O. Box 30008
Lansing, MI 48909

***Public Comment will only be open until March 13, 2014 at 5:00 pm, and will not be accepted via email or fax: Those who wish to comment via email can send comments to Marcie Lipsitt will print and mail every public comment emailed to her by March 11, 2014. Please include name and contact information.”

Her post identifies the objectionable changes.

Andrea Rediske appealed to Florida officials to exempt children who suffer extreme pain from high-stakes testing.

This post contains her moving testimony about the ordeal her son Ethan experienced when he was compelled to take the state’s exam. Even when he was dying in hospice, the state harassed him to take the test.

The state imposed cruel and unusual punishment on this child, violating his Constitutional rights.

His mother, an experienced educator, explained:

“I have a passion for education and I know how to write an exam that accurately assesses the abilities of my students. Not only was the Florida Adapted Assessment inappropriate for the level of my son’s abilities, it endangered his health – the long, stressful testing sessions requiring him to sit in his wheelchair caused pressure sores, fluid to pool in his lungs, and increased seizures and spasticity that contributed to his deteriorating health. Only after climbing a mountain of paperwork and garnering media attention was Ethan granted a medical waiver for the FAA. Despite assurances at his IEP meeting that the waiver would be granted again for this school year, the school district demanded paperwork proving his continued medical fragility. The insult to this injury was that he was on his deathbed – the school district and the state of Florida required a letter from hospice care stating he was unable to take the FAA. This incident caused anguish to my family and his teacher, and shows a stunning lack of compassion and even common sense on the part of the Department of Education. His exceptionally talented teacher faced threats and sanctions because she continued to work with him even though he wasn’t preparing for the FAA. I wonder if these administrators are more concerned with policy, paperwork, and their bottom line than the children they have been elected to serve.”

She was right to wonder. Has the state of Florida no decency, no compassion, no capacity for thought? How can they teach critical thinking when they lack the capacity to do it themselves?

Charter schools and voucher schools –unless they are one of the few created specifically for students with disabilities–are noted for excluding them.

A Gulen charter in Minneapolis took over a public school and immediately kicked out 40 autistic students.

In this article, the parents of students with special needs in Wisconsin explain how their children are cheated by voucher schools and lose the rights guaranteed to them by law.

They write:

“Because of the activism of parents before us, our children attend school with their neighborhood peers. Across the country, students with disabilities have the right to a free and appropriate public education, with legally enforceable protections, through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

“Unfortunately, the rights and protections of the IDEA do not apply in private voucher schools such as LifeSkills Academy, and special needs vouchers would not change that. Private voucher schools are not required to have therapists or special educators on staff, and Wisconsin’s existing voucher program has a dismal track record of expelling or “counseling out” students with disabilities.

“The revamped special needs voucher bill puts no limit on the number of vouchers that could be granted statewide, reducing funding available for every school district in the state. While the recent statewide voucher expansion specified that schools must be in existence for at least two years before qualifying to take vouchers, the new special needs voucher bill makes no such provision, leaving the doors wide open for fly-by-night schools to choose Wisconsin solely to take advantage of the vouchers — and of some of Wisconsin’s most vulnerable students.

“The special needs voucher threat to the students of Wisconsin is why we are part of Stop Special Needs Vouchers, a statewide parent-led grass-roots group that advocates in favor of inclusive public education and in opposition to voucher schemes funded and supported in large part by out-of-state interests. We are deeply opposed to this latest attempt to pull public money out of public schools and into private schools where students with disabilities surrender their rights at the door, if indeed the door is not slammed in their faces.

“The private schools are the entities that would be given the real choice. And when private schools get to choose, students with significant disabilities lose. Our public school students stand to lose funding for critical shared resources, at a time when public education funding already has been deeply slashed.”

Children with disabilities have many struggles to deal with. Public officials should do their best to remove the obstacles these children confront, not add to them.

This is a statement written by Bianca Tanis, a parent of a child with disabilities.

Here is an excerpt:

“As of Tuesday, 2/11, Members of the NYS Assembly completed interviews of both new and incumbent candidates for the 4 positions that are up for re-appointment on the NYS Board of Regents. In light of the failure of the Board of Regents to heed parent concerns, coupled with a Regents Task Force Report that is at best misinformed and at worst duplicitous, the legislature must elect new leadership to the Board. When the legislators vote to decide who will fill these 4 spots on March 11th, parents and educators will be watching.

“Parents of students with disabilities have been vocally opposed to not only the flawed implementation of the CCLS, but also the deep flaws within the standards themselves and the ways in which they promote poor instructional practice for special education students. One of the Regents up for reappointment is Christine Cea, the Regent from Staten Island who calls herself the “voice of disabilities.” You can watch her interview with members of the Assembly Education Committee here.

“There is little doubt that as a parent of a child with a disability and a researcher for the New York State Institute for Basic Research in Developmental Disabilities , Regent Cea has the best intentions. However, after watching her interview, it is difficult to believe that she is the most qualified person to represent the educational needs of students with disabilities in New York.

“Regent Cea side stepped questions and gave vague, general answers. When asked where in her opinion, special education is going and what direction it should take, Ms. Cea offered the less than insightful response, “We are seeing great strides in getting people independent and doing more and more.” When asked what she hopes to accomplish in her next term if elected, Regent Cea responded, “I moved very comfortably into the spot of being the disability voice and I just hope to do more…I hope to take this transition piece (transition to the CC) and make it into something special.” Special?

“Perhaps most disturbing was Regent Cea’s complete and utter lack of understanding of the ways in which the CCLS are impacting students with disabilities in the classroom.”

Tanis then reprints the interview.

A teacher writes to challenge the claim that teachers are never fired and to explain why it is wrong to judge teachers by test scores:

“Teachers do get fired. 3 in my own school in recent memory. Tenure only provides teachers the right to due process before they are let go for poor performance. And, how do you judge me on my students’ performance? I’m a special education teacher. I teach students with autism, with mental illness like schizophrenia, with dyslexia, with ADHD. I work just as hard as the AP Stats teacher down the hall. Guess what? A student getting electric shock treatments three times a week doesn’t have very good ACT/SAT scores. Neither does a student with autism with limited language skills. Neither does a child who reads letters upside down and backwards. Neither does a chronically truant child. Or one who comes lives in a home with drug addicted parents. Or who has post traumatic stress due to sexual abuse or parents who fight day and night. All of these things affect test scores, and all are beyond teachers’ control.”

In response to a debate about charters in Minneapolis, this reader says the comparison is unfair. The charters enroll different students from the public schools. Moreover, as the charters exclude students with disabilities, the public schools enroll larger proportions of the students with the highest needs.

He writes that charters do NOT beat the odds. They stack the deck in their own favor while harming public schools:

“The few that do [beat the odds] have a lower amount of SPED and or ESL students than their public school counterparts. They also have higher attrition rates, suspension rates and strict academic policies that allow for students to be “pushed out”, and lower class sizes. Also more importantly is the fact that in MPS, The % of SPED students that are level 3 and above is over 30%. Minneapolis Charters that number is around 8%. Simply put public schools educate all that walk through the door. Charters self select. There is no way getting around that fact. I am sure one of the schools Mr. Nathan is talking about is Harvest prep which BTW has a 0% ESL populations and 7% sped. Neighboring Bethune is at 23%.3 times as many. In fact Lake Harriet has a higher SPEd % than Harvest. Please stop comparing charters to public schools because they simply serve different student populations. MPS serves all that walk through the door.”


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