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At Albany Hearing, Felder Urges De Blasio on Three-Year IEPs

February 15, 2017        

By Mendy Hecht, Hamaspik Gazette

State Senator Calls on NYC Mayor to Streamline Special-needs Services for Families

At a hearing before state lawmakers in Albany on January 30, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio was once again urged by State Sen. Simcha Felder (D-17th Dist.) to finally implement the long-promised three-year Individualized Educational Plans (IEPs).

An IEP is a detailed, multi-page document containing all pertinent medical, developmental and academic information on students with any disabilities or special needs.

The document, crafted after an initial number of detailed and painstaking professional evaluations, is vital to any New York State or City public- or private-school student obtaining any special-education services.

Said services range from regular physical, occupational and/or speech-language therapy sessions at school to more involved services, including placement in full-day programs, or even in special-education or disability-oriented non-public schools, if demonstrably warranted.

By current regulation, New York City parents of students with IEPs, often children with significant intellectual and/or physical disabilities, must renew their children’s IEPs at the start of each school year.

But because the annual renewal is a burdensome study in tediousness and bureaucracy, parents have long requested that IEPs require renewal only once every three years.

Especially, as Sen. Felder buttonholed de Blasio at the hearing, when said children have unchanging diagnoses and conditions—and hence unchanging schooling needs whose IEPs should not need yearly updates, either.

“You testified here on May 4, 2016 before the Education Committee and made a commitment at the time to parents of special-needs children to finally implement, before the start of this school year, 3-year IEPs for special-needs students that require no changes to their IEPs.  That never occurred,” Felder pressed.

“And children and families are still suffering humiliation and financial hardship to maintain their IEPs by having to pay lawyers over and over and over again,” he went on, “despite the fact that there are no [diagnostic] changes [to the IEP].”

“The example I gave last time was… a child [who] has Down syndrome, autism,” Felder said.  “There’s no fix for that, unfortunately, and there’s no need to force them to do it over and over again.”

The longstanding public champion of children with disabilities ended on an upbeat note. 

“Thank you for strides and improvements that you made,” he said to the Mayor, “but that doesn’t give me or anyone else a pass on doing what we have to do to help these families, so I sincerely hope that New Yorkers can count on your commitments in 2017.  Let’s start fresh.”