Cuomo Plans to Veto Special-Education Bill

Marion Herbert's picture
Tuesday, July 31, 2012

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo will veto a bill requiring school officials to consider religion and other family beliefs when approving taxpayer-funded tuition for special-education students at private schools, an administration official said.

The bill passed the state Legislature with bipartisan support in June, pushed largely by Jewish and Catholic organizations that said some special-needs children could only learn in a setting that closely reflected their family life. The measure would have required education officials to consider "home environment and family background" when deciding on school placement and streamlined tuition reimbursements to parents.

School-district officials said the bill could result in a voucherlike system for special-needs children, creating a cottage industry of private schools catering to families of varying religions, lifestyles and backgrounds—all paid for with government funds. Private tuition and transportation for special-education students can cost $100,000 a year per child.

"It was so open-ended, that it's hard to define what a family background and home environment is," said Georgia Asciutto, executive director of the Conference of Big 5 School Districts, which represents New York City, Rochester, Buffalo, Syracuse and Yonkers. "Is it someone who grew up in the mountains of a rural community and moves to New York City and has never been exposed to anyone of any other culture? Now what? Those were extreme examples."

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