The District's top special education official apologized to a roomful of anxious parents Wednesday night for mishandling an attempt to remove their children from private schools where they had been placed at public expense because the city was unable to meet their needs.
Richard Nyankori, deputy chancellor for special education, acknowledged serious problems with the initiative known as the "reintegration plan," which he undertook because he says the city now has the capacity to serve more students with disabilities in public and public charter schools or through some other form of support.
But many parents were angered and alarmed by what they described as the ad hoc, uncommunicative execution of the plan, saying they were informed without any previous consultation that their children would be moved at the end of the current school year. They said placement specialists hired by the District had notified them of the impending moves, in some cases just weeks after their individual education plans -- the documents specifying the special support their children would receive -- were reviewed.
There are a lot of shocking statistics coming out of School Chancellor Joel Klein’s mouth recently – including news of a $750 million deficit and 4,400 teacher layoffs. But one other startling fact almost got lost this week.
“For this school year, the current one, our schools enrolled 14,000 more students than had been projected and about half of them require special education services,” Klein said.
Officials still don't know for sure why there are so many more special education students. Is it better diagnosis? Less of a stigma? Or is special ed being promoted by school officials who see it as a source of federal aid?
“We really don't want to speculate,” said Laura Rodriguez of the Department of Education. “Part of what we do is analyze our data, get better at it, and have more consistent numbers, but we do understand that there is a rise in the numbers.”
But advocates say DOE should at least know more about these children, since fewer than 25 percent of special education students graduated last year.