Tag Archives: IEP

NYC school bus drivers won’t strike Monday, but walkout still possible

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

File photo

After threatening to strike, New York City school bus drivers were back to work Monday, but they could still walk off the job within the next few days.

A strike would affect 152,000 students, including 54,000 with disabilities, and those in public, private and parochial schools.

“The union is asking for something we cannot legally deliver and are putting a central and necessary service at risk,” said Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott. “A strike would be irresponsible and would adversely impact our students and their families who rely on bus service to get to and from school.”

In an effort to cut costs,  the city wants to put contracts out to bid for 1,100 routes for the first time in 33 years.

New York City spends $1.1 billion, or $6,900 per student, on busing each year. That figure is more than any other school district in the country and almost double what the country’s second largest school district, Los Angeles, spends.

Local 1181 of the Amalgamated Transit Union, which represents 9,000 drivers, is objecting to the lack of  job guarantees in the contract bid specifications and safety issues that could arise if current drivers are replaced with less experienced ones.

“I’ve been working 35 years driving kids to school in the Bronx, and now you’re going to tell me, ‘You don’t have a job no more’?” 67-year-old union member Rick Meli told the Wall Street Journal. “How do you tell this many people they could lose their jobs?”

If a strike does happen, the city will robocall affected families.

Additionally, students and parents with children in pre-school to 2nd grade or with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) and require transportation from their home directly to their school will receive free MetroCards. Parents who receive yellow bus service from their homes or are in grades K through 6 and do not live in areas where public transportation between home and school is available, can request reimbursement for transportation costs.

“As the city continues to take all possible precautions in advance of a potential strike, we are asking parents to make a plan in the event that busing is disrupted,” said Walcott.




Panel preps parents for changes to special ed

| aaltman@queenscourier.com

Perturbed parents, unsure about the newly instated special education reform, finally got some answers.

Parents and education experts gathered at the offices of the Community District Education Council 30 (CDEC30) in Long Island City on Wednesday, August 29 to discuss the special education reform that kicked off at the start of this school year.

According to a representative from the Department of Education (DOE), as of September 1, kindergarten, sixth and ninth grades will begin integrating special education students into classrooms with general education students. The program is expected to occur in phases over the next several years, combining children with varying degrees of disabilities.

Michelle Noris, a CDEC30 member who has a child with an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), said her group exists to act as a liaison between parents and the DOE, disseminating information to the public and alerting the city agency about major, underlying issues.

According to Noris, the biggest concerns of parents include reduced services due to dwindling funds, and issues with students’ Related Services Agreement (RSA), which could potentially prohibit parents from choosing their child’s therapist.

The meeting was called to allow advocates and parents to speak freely without being suppressed by members of the Department of Education (DOE), who were not in attendance, according to a member of the CDEC30. A diverse panel of speakers, including officials such as occupational therapists and lawyers, fielded questions from parents, concerned that their children may not be getting the services they require.

“[Educational guidelines] change very quickly,” said panelist Jean Mizutani, education program director for Resources for Children with Special Needs. “There is no sufficient outreach done by the DOE. Parents hear about changes in the course of their daily activities. It’s very helpful to have a panel and answer questions. It just grounds the parents.”

Mizutani said rapidly changing systems in education can confuse parents, who were better versed in previously existing methods. While she says all parents of school-aged children are concerned with their child’s education, parents of those with special needs require additional information and advice.

The DOE argues that increased interaction between students with disabilities and those in general education raises scores on standardized tests, diminishes truancy and disruptive behavior, and betters their chances for employment and independent living after high school. According to the DOE, these improvements occurred in all students with disabilities, regardless of the severity or type of handicap, gender or socioeconomic standing. The agency cited studies, stating that self-contained classrooms provide an absence of positive behavior models and have a negative impact on classroom environment.

A Universal Design for Learning (UDL) will be implemented at all schools throughout the city, according to the DOE, providing equal opportunities for students to learn, with or without disabilities.

“People have been accustomed to children being segregated for so long, that’s what they perceive as a positive,” said panelist Ellen McHugh, associate director of Parent to Parent New York State. “When you have a pass/fail percentage on Regents that’s less than two percent and a graduation rate of less than 30 percent, that’s a problem.”