IAC Executive Directors and Education Directors meet with NYSED During Lobby Days
On March 1st Chris Treiber and a group of 8 IAC Executive Directors and Education Directors met with Christopher Suriano, Deputy Commissioner for Special Education for the New York State Education Department. Those who attended the meeting represented some of IAC largest education programs and those who provide 4410 and 853 services in all five boroughs of NYC, LI, and Westchester.
The meeting agenda included:
* Teacher and Teacher Assistant Staffing Crisis
* Financial Vulnerability of our providers
* SCIS Classes – Need to Establish a UPK Priority set aside and developing a new rate methodology
* Property/Lease Costs
* Innovative Waivers – Related Services
Much of the meeting focused on the first two agenda items and each Executive Director had an opportunity to discuss the teaching staff crisis facing their schools and the impact it was having on the children and their programs. Many shared their teacher and teacher assistant vacancy numbers which in some cases were more than 30 – 40%. The Execs also told Chris Suriano that they lack sufficient resources to continue to recruit and train new teachers and teacher assistants. The Execs also stated that for the first time they are not getting any resumes of inquiries about their teacher and teacher assistant vacancies. Chris Suriano clearly understood the teaching staff crisis and he expressed concerns to the group about the potential impact it could have on the capacity of the special education system state-wide. Chris Treiber also pointed out the potential devastating impact that the teacher and teacher assistant vacancies could have on the school’s tuition rates in the future. He told Chris Suriano IAC has raised this concern with Suzanne Bolling from Rate Setting and that Suzanne had recommended that if providers had large numbers of teacher and teacher assistant vacancies in a given year they should notify their accountants at SED to place a note in the school file so that when the fiscal year is reconciled SED takes the teacher vacancies into account. We asked Chris Suriano if SED could provide us with written documentation to support the recommendation that Suzanne Bolling had given. He asked that we send him a statement in writing that outlined what Suzanne Bolling has advised schools to do and he said he would work on this. In addition, we discussed the significant salary disparity between what public schools can pay a teacher and what our schools can afford to pay and how the disparity had grown during the period of zero growth. We told him about COPA’s lobby position asking for 18 million for teachers to help narrow the salary disparity.
We also discussed the limited tuition increases for preschool special education providers in the last two years and the tuition growth freeze that lasted for years impacting both 4410 and 853 programs and the
significant financial losses our education providers have experienced as a result. The remainder of the meeting was spent discussing the challenges of operating SCIS classes and the need for a priority set of aside UPK seats to help integrated the classes and for a rate methodology reform, the increased property costs especially New York City and innovative waivers and related service program models. Chris Suriano told the group that he planned to convene a stakeholder group in the next few months to discuss preschool special education and the IAC would be invited to participate. All of the Execs who attended the meeting were impressed with Chris Suriano and are hopeful that he will be able to bring about changes to SED that are desperately needed. IAC wishes to thank all the Execs who attended the meeting and for the real life examples each of them provided about the daily challenges their organization experiences attempting to continue to operate their education programs. We believe that they “educated” Chris Suriano in a way that IAC staff could not have done.
Pictured here from right to left – Joanne Gerenser, Executive Director, Eden II and IAC Board President, Matthew Sturiale, Executive Director Birch Family Services, Chris Treiber, IAC Associate Executive Director for Children’s Services, Linda Temple, Executive Director DD Services, HeartShare Human Services, John Lessard, Executive Director DDI, Christopher Suriano, NYSED Deputy Commissioner for Special Education, Christina Muccioli, Director of Educational Services, AHRC NYC, Linda Rosenthal, Director of Early Childhood Educational Services, Volunteers of America, and Lisa Veglia, Deputy Executive Director QSAC