From the New York Times:
New York City’s Bloomberg administration has announced plans to overhaul the city’s special education system, seeking to include more students with disabilities in neighborhood schools. The city has traditionally concentrated students with disabilities in schools that have specific special education programs.
Starting this fall, more than 250 schools will be asked to accept more students with disabilities. It is anticipated that all of the system’s 1,500 schools will be expected to enroll all but the most severely disabled students by Sept. 2011.
Officials say the intent of the shift is to improve results for students with disabilities, as well as bringing the city into line with the national trend toward inclusion of students with disabilities in general education classrooms. But some disability advocates and educators worry that students will be harmed if changes are introduced too quickly, or without adequate preparation.
“This is fundamentally looking to change the way kids with special needs are treated in the city – they’re talking about changing the culture of all the schools in the city so that they can serve students that many of them were previously shipping out,” said Kim Sweet, the executive director of Advocates for Children of New York, which helps parents navigate the special education system. “This could easily fall flat if it’s not done right.
“If kids are stuck in schools that don’t have the capacity to serve them and are denied requests to move elsewhere, that would be falling worse than flat.”
Special education enrollment in New York amounts to 177,000 students, or 17 percent of the system’s total, up from about 13 percent seven years ago. The city’s annual pricetag for special education is about $4.8 billion annually, with $1.2 billion of that going to send students to private schools.