It is depressing to reflect that autism and other disabilities create so many opportunities for fraud and profiteering.
Responding to reports of fraud and abuse, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo this week signed into law a bill to strengthen oversight of New York State’s preschool programs for disabled children.
The law will empower the office of the state comptroller to routinely audit the finances of companies that provide special education services, which have come under scrutiny amid a series of scandals involving exorbitant fees and shoddy care.
New York State has the costliest prekindergarten system for disabled children in the country, with $2 billion spent on programs for 3- and 4-year-olds with disabilities, including developmental ones like autism and Down syndrome. In New York City, annual costs per child have soared to about $40,000, totaling $1.2 billion per year, about 6 percent of the city’s education budget.
State lawmakers sought to tighten control of New York’s special education system after a series of articles in The New York Times and several audits by the state comptroller, Thomas P. DiNapoli, revealed improprieties. In some instances, preschool providers charged taxpayers for luxurious trips abroad, jewelry and cars; in other cases, companies distorted evaluations of children to justify costly interventions.
In June, the lawmakers unanimously approved the bill, signed by Mr. Cuomo on Wednesday, to require audits of every special-education preschool contractor in the state by 2018.Click here for more from the Comptroller.