Now is the Time to Overhaul Preschool Special Education in NYS An Opinion By Stephen J. Acquario, Executive Director
New York State Association of Counties June 26, 2012
Recent New York Times articles, combined with a series of State Comptroller reports, expose serious deficiencies in the State’s Preschool Special Education Program. These reports reveal a pattern of systemic fraud, waste and abuse that must lead to an overhaul of this critical program.
The preschool special education program provides essential services like speech and occupational therapy to special needs children between the ages of 3 and 5 years old. Counties, which finance this $2 billion program, are alarmed at these recent reports that highlight the growing costs and apparent misuse of taxpayer dollars.
The issue is that our children are receiving uncoordinated care at the most expensive rate in the nation. The cost of services is far outpacing increases in enrollment. It is clear from these reports and our experience that continuing the status quo is unacceptable and unsustainable. Our children and our families deserve better.
Four consecutive Governors and a State Task Force have all recommended reforms that would have addressed many of the deficiencies in these programs highlighted by these reports.
One has to wonder why nothing has been done?
For decades county officials have advocated for reforms that would foster greater efficiency, oversight and accountability. We need to incentivize schools and providers for making the program more efficient, accountable and effective. Simply shifting the cost from one taxpayer base to another is not the answer.
It’s time for the State to enact major reforms that are in the long-term best interest of the children.