New York - Assemblywoman Weinstein Achieves Major Breakthrough For Parents Of Special Needs Children
Last updated on: June 22, 2012 03:23 PM
New York - Parents of special needs children will find that the placement process for their children will become much less cumbersome, thanx to legislation passed in Albany today, drafted and sponsored by Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein.
The new legislation addresses three key issues that address where a child is placed, how long parents must wait for tuition reimbursement and an annual requirement that each child be reassessed annually.
Under current regulations parents whose children require special education face a lengthy battle in order to have their child placed in a non-public school, an issue that is of major concern to the Jewish community. Until now, parents have been required to sue the City of New York for tuition reimbursement, a process which takes a year to settle, and generally obligates parents to borrow money in order to pay their child’s very substantial tuition rates. Additionally, with each child being reassessed annually, this lengthy and often frustrating process is an annual rite for parents of special education children.
“We have been working on this issue for years,” Rabbi Shmuel Lefkowitz, vice president for Community Affairs at the Agudah, told VIN News. “These children are entitled to this placement and there is even federal money available. But the City of New York has made this a difficult process, particularly in recent years, even though they lose eighty five percent of the cases presented annually.”
Under the new legislation, not only are a child’s academic abilities considered, but also both the child’s home background and cultural environment. All tuition reimbursements must be dealt with within ninety days with all payments paid within thirty days. Additionally, annual assessments for special education children are no longer required.
“Baruch Hashem, this is a great accomplishment,” said Rabbi Lefkowitz. “The legislature has done the right thing for these parents who have suffered so much and are just trying to do what is best for their children. This was the right thing to do and it will benefit not just the Jewish community but other minority communities as well.”
Rabbi Lefkowitz thanked Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and Senator John Flanagan, chair of the Education Committee, and his staff, who together sponsored the bill in the Senate, as well as Senator Marty Golden; and members of the Assembly-Helene Weinstein (chief sponsor of the bill), Sheldon Silver (Assembly Speaker), Cathy Nolan (chair of the Assembly Education Committee) and Dov Hikind (who helped draft this Bill). Other co-sponsors are assembly members Simanowitz, Cymbrowitz, Jacobs, Goldfeder, Weprin, and Weisenberg.
Leon Goldenberg, a member of Agudath Israel of America Community Services Board of Directors, who met with key legislators in Albany, explained, “This is a great win for parents who have a double struggle, first of helping their special needs children learn and then worrying about how to pay the extremely high tuition costs for an educational program in which they can succeed.”
Chaskel Bennett, a member of the Board of Trustees of Agudath Israel said, “There is nothing more worthy of our time and effort than trying to improve the lives of special needs children. Agudath Israel and community activists consider it a sacred mission to do whatever possible to alleviate even the smallest burden placed upon these heroic families. Our community is deeply grateful to Helene Weinstein and her partners in the state Assembly and Senate who never wavered in their commitment to seeing this legislation through to completion. Assemblywoman Weinstein’s steady leadership and legislative skill is a big reason why this bill and so many other landmark achievements have been accomplished over the past few years in Albany on behalf of our community.”
Assemblyman Dov Hikind called today’s victory “the best moment of the entire six months in Albany.” and said Helene Weinstein is a superstar.
“Every single school year we deal with the parents of special needs kids,” Hikind told VIN News. “They go through such aggravation, there is so much difficulty in applying every year to cover their child’s needs, then they have to sue, and even once they win, they have to wait months and months to get paid. The anxiety over this issue is like a nightmare for them. People ask us what does the legislature do in Albany and the answer is things like this. We have fought for years for the passage of this bill and its passage today is absolutely stunning.”
The bill, which passed in both the senate and the assembly on the last day of the legislative session, will be sent to Governor Cuomo for his approval and enactment into law.
Mrs. Leah Steinberg, Director of Special Education Affairs for Agudath Israel of America, who helped draft this entire bill, said “I am humbled by the commitment of Assemblywoman Weinstein to our special needs children. She is all heart; and made herself available around the clock as she shepherded the law from its inception through each step of the process to ensure that it will provide maximum benefit to these children. Senator Flanagan displayed extraordinary dedication to our children with his declaration to ‘tell me what you need, and if we can make it work, we will, and he did. His staff, too, displayed a level of commitment unparalleled in my experience, as did Dov Hikind, a true friend, I must also mention the incredible efforts of Reb Shimon and his son Reb Shiya Ostreicher; they are askanim without peer.”
If you need info about this program you can reach Mrs Steinberg at 212 797 9000 ext. 326
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