Special Education Services in New York City Public Schools

Introduction

Problem Statement

It is hard to disagree that, since all people should be equal and have similar rights, every child and adolescent should also have an opportunity to get a quality and effective school education. Nevertheless, a vast number of teenagers with disabilities and individual differences are deprived of this chance or have to face various obstacles that keep them from learning (Fancsali, 2019). Special education is a particular global program provided to parents at no cost and created to address such students’ specific needs (Jessen, 2013). Unfortunately, special education services in New York City public schools are not appropriately developed.

There are situations when parents of students with disabilities are forced to visit the New York City Department of Education and persistently ask the city to provide the services that are required in their children’s individual learning plans (Niedzwiadek, 2020). However, this is a rather challenging process due to the fact that this particular place created to offer relief to children with special needs and their parents has instead turned into an additional aspect of the issue (Niedzwiadek, 2020). Moreover, many disabled students still face discrimination from their classmates or even teachers. This is another severe void in the special education system in New York City schools that has to be addressed (Yell et al., 2016).

Thus, an extended number of disabled students face difficulty either getting access to the services or attending schools. The purpose of this research is to study and discuss special education services in New York City public schools, identify a specific problem within these services, and analyze the current policies aimed at solving it. The research question of this paper is as follows. What are the challenges that parents and their children with disabilities and special needs face in receiving special education services in New York City public schools, and how does the city’s educational system fail such students?

Background Information

To discuss the problem and find the answer to the research question, it is necessary to study the subject thoroughly. Factors and causes of the issue, people impacted by it, currents policies and their effects, barriers to solving the problem, and persons responsible for doing that will be discussed further.

Contributing Factors and Causes of the Problem

To begin with, an issue may not appear and continue existing without particular causes and factors that create and contribute to it. First of all, according to Fancsali and Farley (2018), there are “more than 200,000 public school students are eligible for special education” in New York City (para. 1). This is approximately twenty percent of all public-school students in this city, and unfortunately, this number is growing (Fancsali & Farley, 2018, para. 2). Therefore, it may be a challenging and lengthy process to provide them all with special education services, and this is the first factor of the issue being discussed.

Then, as mentioned in the problem statement, the New York City Department of Education also adds difficulties. When disabled students receive only half of or no interventions they are entitled to, their parents try to seek help within this government department (Fancsali & Farley, 2018). Nevertheless, they have to face additional issues, including “insufficient space to hold hearings, too few people willing to adjudicate these matters, packed calendars that too often fall hours behind schedule, facilities that lack privacy” (Niedzwiadek, 2020, para. 3). Thus, instead of supporting students with disabilities and their families, the New York City Department of Education appears to be less powerful and slows down the process of giving these children with services they are granted.

Finally, another factor contributing to the problem is the inability of schools and state policies to address and eliminate bullying of students with special needs. Unfortunately, such teenagers are typically the targets of harassment (Yell et al., 2016). Therefore, until serious measures are taken to prevent discrimination and bullying of the students eligible for special education services, this program cannot be considered successful and effective in public schools in New York City.

People Impacted by the Problem and the Ways of this Impact

This issue has a significant adverse effect on families with disabled children. First of all, students with special needs are typically already deprived of everyday joys and may have difficulty living a normal life. That is why it is the responsibility of the government and other people, namely, teachers and classmates, to make it more comfortable for them to study and spend time at school (Jessen, 2013). Nevertheless, the voids in the special education program, bullying, and lack of support from the New York City Department of Education worsen the situation and significantly contribute to disabled students’ families’ problems. What is more, these factors may lower the self-esteem of children with special needs and have a negative impact on their studies (Fancsali & Farley, 2018). As for parents of such children, they have to spend an extended amount of time waiting and hoping for special education services and interventions to become available for their sons and daughters. Apart from working and providing their kids with necessary medical procedures, they also have to put effort into ensuring that their disabled children can receive what is already due to them by law.

Responsibility for Addressing the Problem

The legislative branch is responsible for addressing and eliminating the problems and voids in the special education system, and the New York City Department of Education has to put the effort in improving these services precisely at local public schools. To begin with, specific laws and policies should be established to keep special education under control and prevent other students from harassing and bullying their disabled classmates. This is the purpose of the legislative branch, while the executive one is responsible for making sure those laws and policies are enforced properly. The New York City Department of Education belongs to the executive branch, that is why it aims to control the process of providing disabled students with services they are entitled to.

Current Policies and Their Positive and Negative Impacts

There are several policies that help control the situation with the special education program. First, there are federal policies funded by the federal government. In 1990, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act was modified into the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) (Maag et al., 2019). The purpose and positive impact of this law are to control whether learners with disabilities and special needs receive appropriate and efficient free public education (Blad, 2020). IDEA also governs the ways public agencies and states provide these services and interventions. The federal government funds this act, and its current budget is $13.6 billion (Blad, 2020). Nevertheless, according to Maag et al. (2019), this policy’s negative effect is that it provides a particular evaluation system, and parents’ and teachers’ expectations may become lower. Further, creating practical, functional, and high-quality individualized educational programs (IEPs), which is required by this act, is a challenging process, and some teachers do not follow the rules while writing them.

Additional school policies aimed at supporting disabled learners and prevent bullying and harassment are funded by the state government. In case a school fails to address discrimination, it may become in violation of Section 504 (Yell et al., 2016). This act is also funded by the federal government and is aimed at protecting the rights of students with special needs. Section 504 law is exceptionally positive and has no adverse impacts.

Barriers to Addressing the Problem

Since this issue is not solved properly yet, it is possible to suggest that there are certain obstacles that do not allow policymakers to finally eliminate it. Generally, it is evident that a multilateral approach is required as while addressing one factor of the problem, the other ones continue negatively affecting the special education system. The first barrier is the lack of funding and time to provide all disabled children in New York City with individual learning plans according to their unique needs (Blad, 2020). Then, there is a limited number of measures that parents can take in case their children cannot receive all interventions they are eligible for (Niedzwiadek, 2020). Further, the lack of ordinary people’s awareness of this issue makes it more challenging for families with disabled learners to get support and public and government intervention.

References

Blad, E. (2020). Why the feds still fall short on special education funding. Education Week. Web.

Fancsali, C. (2019). Special education in New York City: Understanding the landscape. Brief. Research Alliance for New York City Schools.

Fancsali, C., & Farley, C. (2018). What are the contours of NYC’s special education landscape? The Research Alliance for New York City Schools. Web.

Jessen, S. B. (2013). Special education & school choice: The complex effects of small schools, school choice and public high school policy in New York City. Educational Policy, 27(3), 427–466. Web.

Maag, J. W., Kauffman, J. M., & Simpson, R. L. (2019). The amalgamation of special education? On practices and policies that may render it unrecognizable. Exceptionality, 27(3), 185-200, Web.

Niedzwiadek, N. (2020). NYC special ed ‘crisis’ draws attention of state education officials. Politico. Web.

Yell, M., Katsiyannis, A., Rose, C., & Houchins, D. (2016). Bullying and harassment of students with disabilities in schools: Legal considerations and policy formation. Remedial and Special Education, 37(5), 274-284. Web.