School Choice & Charters

Cultural Considerations Rejected in N.Y. Private Placements

By Nirvi Shah — August 01, 2012 1 min read
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New York Governor Andrew Cuomo vetoed a bill Tuesday that would have required school districts to consider cultural factors when deciding on private placements for students with disabilities.

In a statement cited by the New York Times, Cuomo, a Democrat, said, the bill would have meant “an overly broad and ambiguous mandate” to send more students to private schools, burdening taxpayers with “incalculable significant additional costs.”

Some New York districts—like many across the country—don’t have the capacity to teach all of their students with disabilities in their own schools, so they often turn to private schools to educate these students instead. Typically, these placements are based solely on the students’ educational needs.

It seems it will stay that way in New York.

The bill approved by the state’s legislature would have expanded that consideration. It proposed requiring districts to consider the type of clothing a student’s family wears, the language they speak at home, and so on. Several religious groups backed the bill.

But New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the New York State School Boards Association disliked the proposal.

In a statement Tuesday, the NYSSBA welcomed the veto.

“The bill would have made a child’s cultural and family background a factor in special education placements, thereby promoting religious segregation in special education placements at taxpayer expense. This result is contrary to the pluralistic values upon which our public education system was established,” the group’s executive director, Timothy Kremer, said in a statement. “Although we respect the personal choices that parents make to raise their children in accordance with their faith and culture, it would have been wrong to obligate taxpayers to pay for these private choices.”

Speaking of private placements, public schools in the District of Columbia have significantly reduced the number of students with disabilities in private schools over the last few years. That saves the district money and, hopefully, places the students in a less restrictive school setting than they had previously at their private schools.

However some parents told the Washington Examiner that the District’s schools aren’t quite ready for some of these students.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the On Special Education blog.