Mattituck parents upset over Albany special ed bill

07/19/2012 5:34 PM |

Mattituck-Cutchogue school board members are hopping mad over a bill that recently passed the New York State Legislature that would allow parents of special education students to recoup the costs of private school from their home districts.

The bill is awaiting Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s signature.

“I don’t know what drugs our legislators are on, but they should stop taking them,” said school board president Jerry Diffley during a July 12 meeting. Mr. Diffley and other school board members are planning an email campaign to the governor’s office to insist that he veto the bill.

The bill would require school districts to take “home life and family background” into account when deciding whether a student with special needs would best be served by a private school.

Mattituck board members said the bill could allow special education students to attend expensive schools like The Ross School in East Hampton because of religious or parental preference — and send the bill to their local school district.

“This is crazy stuff,” said board member Douglas Cooper.

“This could cost taxpayers millions of dollars in our district,” said board member Janique Nine.

Director of special education Tricia Desiderio said the measure could easily cost the district upwards of $40,000 per student per year, not including transportation costs.

She also said the measure could create an adversarial relationship between the district and the parents of special education students.

“Who wants that?” Ms. Desiderio said. “We have beautiful relationships with families and we work to serve them. The district absolutely cannot afford to pay for private education.”

Jeff Smith, who recently retired from his board seat but was in the audience for the meeting advised the board, “Overload their emails with your complaints about this bill. Overload their emails and they’ll start listening to it.”

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