There’s some good news tucked away in New York City’s Department of Education’s Report on the Fiscal 2017 Executive Budget. The projected Budget would be $1.2 billion more than the DOE’s 2016 Adopted Budget. Much of the increase reflects an “increased need for special education programs.” Among programs receiving additional funding include those dealing with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Bilingual Education and Academic and Career Essential Skills. More than $7 million would be set aside to “improve and fix” SESIS, the system the DOE uses to manage Special Education cases and information. “Special Education Instruction and School Leadership” (roughly 6% of the DOE’s budget) would see an increase of $148 million compared to the 2016 budget. This increase is linked to the “DOE’s effort to keep more special education students in district schools” (as opposed to out of district or District 75 schools). 1,279 full-time teaching staff would be added to Special Education and additional auditory equipment would be provided as well. However, PreK Special Education funding would decline by approximately $24 million.
The projected budget includes $5 million to expand the DOE’s so-called ACES program (Academic Career Essential Skills) which serves students with intellectual disabilities and helps them develop independent living and work skills. This could potentially be another sorely needed source of support in this area which may be used in conjunction with ACCES-VR services. An additional $13.5 million in State funding and 131 new position would be used to expand the Autism Spectrum Disorder Program “in order to comply with Individualized Education Program (IEP) mandates.” This of course begs the question as to how many children with ASD currently do not have compliant IEPs.
Finally, Special Education teachers and paraprofessionals would be increased by 899 for 2017. As you can see, there are certainly some well need increases in funding for Special Education. Is it enough? Of course not. The question is whether these additional funds will be used properly.