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New York - Assemblywoman Weinstein Achieves Major Breakthrough For Parents Of Special Needs Children

Published on: June 21, 2012 06:08 PM
Last updated on: June 22, 2012 03:23 PM
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Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein with representatives from Agudath Israel of America. Pictured with the Assemblywoman are Rabbi Shmuel Lefkowitz, Vice President for Intergovernmental and Community for Agudah, and Chaskel Bennett and Leon Goldenberg, both members of the board of trustees, and community leaders.Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein with representatives from Agudath Israel of America. Pictured with the Assemblywoman are Rabbi Shmuel Lefkowitz, Vice President for Intergovernmental and Community for Agudah, and Chaskel Bennett and Leon Goldenberg, both members of the board of trustees, and community leaders.

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.

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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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Read Comments (14)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Jun 21, 2012 at 08:25 PM special needs ? Says:

What exactly constitutes "special needs"?

Does this legislation include covering children that are generally normal but have a slight learning disability or need extra help in school?

2

 Jun 21, 2012 at 09:58 PM I don't understand Says:

As a parent with a special child I appreciate this but there is one thing I can't understand.
Parents with special children are a minority. Wht would somebody fight so hard to help a voting minority. I guess I have to understand there are some people that help with no ulterior motive.

PS: To those that might wonder, I believe this action will not raise costs to NY, it might lessen the need for lawyers and consultants that are active in this field.

3

 Jun 21, 2012 at 10:54 PM Leon Zacharowicz MD Says:

This is a great victory for special needs children and their families. As a child neurologist, I have seen many parents cry and nearly crack up under the strain of trying to fight City Hall.

We all owe a debt of gratitude to Agudath Israel and to our representatives for getting this bill passed.

4

 Jun 21, 2012 at 10:57 PM Anonymous Says:

Will this be retroactive? My friend lost her multiple appeals with BoE & just hiring a lawyer cost her a fortune (She won the first case, the appeal & lost the 2nd appeal by BoE.) And her child is still not able to go to a "culturally sensitive" school. In a public school program he will maybe pick up treif food, he'll learn "holiday songs" etc. What can be done to help him and others who lost their placements for this coming year? Is there anyone who can answer?

5

 Jun 22, 2012 at 02:31 AM A Says:

Reply to #2  
I don't understand Says:

As a parent with a special child I appreciate this but there is one thing I can't understand.
Parents with special children are a minority. Wht would somebody fight so hard to help a voting minority. I guess I have to understand there are some people that help with no ulterior motive.

PS: To those that might wonder, I believe this action will not raise costs to NY, it might lessen the need for lawyers and consultants that are active in this field.

Helene Weinstein is and has been an extraordinary Assemblywoman, when families in her district go to her for help she does what she can. It's her job to help her constituency, but keeping her position is not what drives her. Also, she's a nice person. Do you need more reasons as to why she went to bat for special needs children?

6

 Jun 22, 2012 at 10:05 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #4  
Anonymous Says:

Will this be retroactive? My friend lost her multiple appeals with BoE & just hiring a lawyer cost her a fortune (She won the first case, the appeal & lost the 2nd appeal by BoE.) And her child is still not able to go to a "culturally sensitive" school. In a public school program he will maybe pick up treif food, he'll learn "holiday songs" etc. What can be done to help him and others who lost their placements for this coming year? Is there anyone who can answer?

What will happen if he learns a "holiday song?" If you have been a good Jewish parent, no song will hurt him!

7

 Jun 22, 2012 at 10:30 AM concerned_Jew Says:

this is so wonderful that people care about the weakest members of our communities.

8

 Jun 22, 2012 at 11:08 AM jew-wish Says:

Reply to #5  
A Says:

Helene Weinstein is and has been an extraordinary Assemblywoman, when families in her district go to her for help she does what she can. It's her job to help her constituency, but keeping her position is not what drives her. Also, she's a nice person. Do you need more reasons as to why she went to bat for special needs children?

Couldn't have said it better. There are politicians and there are legislators. Weinstein has been a great legislator and uses her legal expertise to craft bills that simultaneously help people and fend off political rhetoric. We can only wish that some of the new members like Goldfeder and Kelner use her as a role model.

9

 Jun 22, 2012 at 11:52 AM SherryTheNoahide Says:

Reply to #4  
Anonymous Says:

Will this be retroactive? My friend lost her multiple appeals with BoE & just hiring a lawyer cost her a fortune (She won the first case, the appeal & lost the 2nd appeal by BoE.) And her child is still not able to go to a "culturally sensitive" school. In a public school program he will maybe pick up treif food, he'll learn "holiday songs" etc. What can be done to help him and others who lost their placements for this coming year? Is there anyone who can answer?

Even though I am a gentile, I share your concern regarding what the kids will get taught in public schools, etc., but no offense: I think people who are unfamiliar w\the public school system, don't always get the best information concerning what's going on. They only EVER hear the bad, you know what I mean?

My kids attend public schools, because there is no private school where we live that supports a Torah-only based education. They are ALL Christian private schools. And what's worse: most of them are Catholic ones. *shudder*

So, the public schools are the only alternative for us, and yet as Noahides, we too don't want the Christian or pagan holiday system rubbed off on our children! We left that for a reason, so we don't want it around!

But every public school teacher I've ever talked to about the secular holidays, was completely sypathetic to our family's needs & was more than happy to work around things! The ONLY time I've ever had to pull my kids out of school for the day because of a secular holiday being celebrated, was when they'd have a Valentine's Day party & hand out candy & whatnot.

Otherwise, there's NO other secular holidays celebrated in the classroom! (con't)

10

 Jun 22, 2012 at 11:58 AM SherryTheNoahide Says:

Reply to #4  
Anonymous Says:

Will this be retroactive? My friend lost her multiple appeals with BoE & just hiring a lawyer cost her a fortune (She won the first case, the appeal & lost the 2nd appeal by BoE.) And her child is still not able to go to a "culturally sensitive" school. In a public school program he will maybe pick up treif food, he'll learn "holiday songs" etc. What can be done to help him and others who lost their placements for this coming year? Is there anyone who can answer?

(con't)

For example, when it came time to do a project in my son's class, regarding how they celebrated the winter holidays, most of the kids talked about Christmas of course... but then my son drew a picture of the menorah & talked about how we opened up presents at night for 8 nights, after prayers & singing & giving thanks to G-d, etc. I was never more proud! :-)

And it's ALWAYS been like this, at every public school my kids have attended so far! They just incorporate whatever religious practice your family keeps, into the classroom project, AND it also gives a chance for your child to talk about the holiday & to teach others about it, who don't know anything about Jewish traditions!

I've only ever had wonderful experiences w\the teachers when it comes to stuff like this. And most public schools have shunned doing Halloween parties or Easter stuff.... and instead, hold "Harvest Balls" or "Spring Socials", and won't put up any scary pictures of ghosts or goblins, or stupid big fat men in red suits. They stopped doing that sort of thing at a lot of public schools a while ago, because even some Christians complained!

Public schools are NOT what people think they are.
Thanks

11

 Jun 22, 2012 at 03:48 PM esther Says:

Reply to #6  
Anonymous Says:

What will happen if he learns a "holiday song?" If you have been a good Jewish parent, no song will hurt him!

ocbiously you have no idea of the extra time,energy and agmus nefesh it takes to be a parent of a special needs child so don't even begin to lecture.

12

 Jun 22, 2012 at 07:39 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #11  
esther Says:

ocbiously you have no idea of the extra time,energy and agmus nefesh it takes to be a parent of a special needs child so don't even begin to lecture.

Dear Esther - THUMBS UP!

My point was this: This child is mid-teens with a developmental age of maybe 3. If there's a ham sandwich nearby, he'll eat it. He doesn't understand & certainly can't make the leap from being told anything once, twice or literally hundreds of times to remembering. It has never made a difference. A "normal" 3 year old will memorize simple songs & his parents don't want him singing Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. They want him to sing Dip the Apple in the Honey. He can't read or write & never will. He speaks in half sentences, very limited vocabulary. He eats from other people's plates (no matter how many times he's told, he just sticks his hands in...no concepts.) His yarmulke is his blanky but he eats his tzitzis. Should I go on? You think a public school system has the time to be culturally sensitive to a child like him? The staff, devoted as I'm sure they are, can't & won't take the time to make sure his specific needs are met.

TO # 6 - Your lack of sympathy for SN population and what their families endure is disgusting. Pray hard that all your progeny are "normal" although with you as an example, with no heart, I'm not sure it's possible.

13

 Jun 23, 2012 at 10:37 PM Special Ed Parent Says:

This is a major win all around! Having a child in special ed for close to 14 yrs it has been a struggle. for those of you who question what is so wrong with being in a public school setting - let me explain: Special Ed kids arent just learning disabled kids - it's also kids with social & emotional issues such as ADHD & Autistic Spectrum. These kids do not have the social skills that other kids have & are highly susceptible to being easy marks & gullible. My son was for a while the token white "jew boy" in his class & was an easy mark for ridicule. they don't have the tools needed to fend off any comments made about tzitizis, or yarmulka or peyos. they are around various influences that to the goyshe world is ok & normal such as certain inappropriate tv shows (let alone tv altogether), secular music as well as totally un-tznius dress (and being around a class of both boys & girls) & treif food. Yes, they can handle the "holiday songs." & learning about the goyishe holidays (legally they aren;t allowed to teach that in public school anymore). but it's more like the behaviors of the other kids.

14

 Jun 22, 2014 at 04:55 PM Aaron_Tyk Says:

Let’s Call a Spade a Spade

There’s been much celebration on the part of activists and public officials regarding a so called “agreement” between the Mayor and the Speaker with respect to reform on the part of the New York City Department of Education regarding requests for tuition reimbursement for children with special needs.

The New York Times quotes a parent from our community as saying: “As powerful as the mayor is, so what? It’s not going to do anything. This has to be a law. If it’s not a law nobody has to listen to it.”

I concur with the parent 100%. This was de facto a colossal loss. Simply stated, the Mayor pulled out the rug from under the feet of these children.

Aaron Tyk, Esq.
Brooklyn, New York

The writer Previously served as a Hearing Officer for the New York State Education Department

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