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02.08.2013 | Today AFC testified before the Education Committee of the New York City Council about the cost of pupil transportation in NYC and the impact of the bus strike on the families we serve. AFC has heard from countless families struggling to get their children to and from school during the strike – a strike which for three weeks now has left great numbers of students with special education needs without the free, appropriate, public education they are entitled to under law. View testimony

01.30.2013 | Today, AFC submitted testimony urging the New York State Legislature to ensure that the state budget protects access to high-quality Early Intervention services that are driven by children’s needs, not by their health insurance coverage....View testimony

01.25.2013 |  

Background: 

Brain research demonstrates that the stimulation and interaction a child receives during the first five years of life are critical to permanent brain development. As part of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the Early Intervention (EI) program provides evaluations and services to infants and toddlers who have developmental delays or disabilities and their families. Early Intervention is cost-effective and helps infants and toddlers at the time when services can make the biggest difference.

Budget Proposal: 

Governor Cuomo’s 2013-2014 Executive Budget proposal would restructure Early Intervention, linking EI services with health insurance coverage. While we support the goal of requiring private health insurance companies to contribute to the cost of EI, we are concerned about parts of the proposal. Among other provisions, the budget proposal would:

  • Allow a health insurance representative to be part of the team that develops and reviews a child’s Individualized Family Services Plan (IFSP), giving the health insurance company a voice in determining a child’s EI services for the first time. 
  • Require EI providers to join health insurance networks, negotiate their reimbursement rates with health insurers, and exhaust all appeals of claim denials by health insurers before being paid by EI, likely leading to a further reduction in the number of experienced EI providers available to serve children. 
  • Require children to be evaluated and served by evaluators and service providers within the children’s health insurance network, without a clear process for obtaining an exception for children who need specialized service providers.

The Executive Budget proposal would also change the EI evaluation system. Children who already have a diagnosed physical or mental condition likely to result in a developmental delay would no longer have the right to a full initial evaluation, making it harder to determine the type and amount of services that would be appropriate.

TAKE ACTION: 

Call or e-mail your state legislators and tell them that you are concerned that the Early Intervention proposals in the Health and Mental Hygiene Article VII Budget Bill would make it harder to access high-quality EI services. Tell legislators that they should not allow health insurance representatives to participate in IFSP meetings; should reject the proposed restrictions on the evaluators and service providers available to serve children; and should ensure that providers are paid at sufficient rates so that they continue working with young children. A sample e-mail is below.

To reach your state legislators, call the Senate switchboard (518-455-2800) and Assembly switchboard (518-455-4100) and give your zip code. Alternatively, you can find your NY State Senator here and your NY Assembly Member here. E-mail lists are available here and here.

Key legislators include: 

Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard Gottfried:
GottfriedR@assembly.state.ny.us or 518-455-4941

Senate Health Committee Chair Kemp Hannon:
hannon@nysenate.gov or 518-455-2200

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver:
Speaker@assembly.state.ny.us or 518-455-3791

Senate Co-Leader Dean Skelos:
skelos@nysenate.gov or 518-455-3171

Senate Co-Leader Jeffrey Klein:
jdklein@senate.state.ny.us or 518-455-3595

Sample e-mail: 

Protect Early Intervention
As a [parent of a child who receives Early Intervention services], I am very concerned about the Early Intervention budget proposals. First, just as health insurance representatives do not participate in meetings between doctors and patients, health insurance representatives should not be able to participate in IFSP meetings. The role of health insurance companies should be to help pay for services, not to decide what services are appropriate. Second, I am concerned that the proposal would restrict access to services by requiring the use of in-network evaluators and providers without a clear process for getting an exception. Young children should have access to the most appropriate EI providers regardless of their health insurance networks. Third, I am concerned that the requirements that EI providers negotiate their rates with health insurance companies and file appeals of health insurance claim denials will drive experienced providers from the EI field, making it harder for young children to access the services they need. Fourth, I am concerned that children who already have a diagnosed physical or mental condition likely to result in a developmental delay would no longer have the right to a full initial EI evaluation, making it harder to determine the type and amount of services that would be appropriate.

Please ensure that the budget addresses these concerns and protects access to high-quality EI services.

For more information and updates, please sign up for the Advocates for Children of New York listserv or contact Randi Levine at rlevine@advocatesforchildren.org.

Forward this alert to others who may be interested in taking action.

01.23.2013 | New York City’s school bus drivers are striking. A few weeks ago, we urged you to follow the story and get updates from the DOE on alternative options for families that rely on yellow bus service to travel to and from school. AFC is continuing to push the Department of Education for a solution that works for all of our youth; we want to make sure that you are aware of some more specific resources available to help get your children to school during the strike.

  • If you don’t know yet, and need to determine if your child’s bus route has been disrupted by the strike, see here
     
  • For general information about the use of MetroCards and reimbursement for driving or taking a taxi or other car service see here. A few things to note about these options: 
     
    • MetroCards are available for all students who use yellow bus services through school offices. 
       
    • MetroCards are available for some parents of students who use yellow bus services to allow them to accompany their children to and from school. 
      • Parents of all preschool and all school-age children with IEPs are eligible. 
      • Parents of general education students in grades K-6 are eligible. 
         
    • Parents of students in grades K-6 who receive yellow bus services will be reimbursed for driving costs at a rate of 55 cents per mile upon completion of reimbursement forms. 
       
    • Parents of students in grades K-6 who receive yellow bus services may also be reimbursed for cab fares upon completion of reimbursement forms. 
       
    • Families of students who are eligible for yellow bus services who cannot utilize public transportation and cannot afford to pay carfare costs up front and then seek reimbursement should reach out to their school administrator or CSE for further assistance. If the family qualifies for free or reduced price lunch and the child receives specialized transportation, protocols have been set up to arrange to have families’ fees for car services assigned to and paid by the DOE. A list of car service providers is available on the DOE website or by calling the Office of Pupil Transportation’s Customer Service number at (718) 392-8855. Families who can demonstrate financial hardship regardless of Title 1 status should reach out to their schools as well. If that is not successful, contact your Committee on Special Education. 
       
    • Students who have IEPs that require paraprofessional or nursing support for transportation should continue to get those services. Speak with your school directly about this. 
       
    • Students who don’t generally have paraprofessional support on their yellow buses, who are traveling during the strike to school by subway or through a car service, and whose families are, for whatever reason, unable to accompany them, but who still may need an adult other than a parent to travel with them by train or by car, should also speak directly with their schools to determine what arrangements can be made under the circumstances. 
       
  • For information specific to finding an accessible ride, go here
     
  • For a copy of the travel reimbursement forms in multiple languages, see here.

As always, we urge you to continue checking back on the DOE’s website or contacting 311 for updates and to advocate with your schools and central DOE offices if you need assistance (see here for AFC’s tips on advocacy). If you are confused or encounter unexpected obstacles obtaining MetroCards, reimbursement, securing accessible transportation services, or arranging for other forms of assistance, contact the AFC Helpline at 1-866-427-6033 for information and assistance or send specific information about your case to us at josep@advocatesforchildren.org.

01.15.2013 | More than 152,000 New York City students, including 54,000 with special education needs, depend on school buses to get them to their classes each day. In the event of a strike, Advocates for Children of New York (AFC) urges the City to take every possible action to ensure that these students do not become victims of a labor dispute and that they have a safe, alternative way to get to and from school... Read full statement

01.14.2013 |  There is a chance of a system wide bus strike that could impact your children's transportation services in New York City in the very near future. We want to make sure that all families, including families of students receiving preschool and school-aged special education services, have the information needed in the event of a strike. We want you to know your options.

The DOE sent a communication from the Chancellor home to families on January 4 detailing the protocols that will go into effect for the duration of the strike, including the use of MetroCards and reimbursement for actual transportation costs. To see that letter in multiple languages, visit the DOE’s website. Yesterday, the Chancellor announced additional measures the City will take in the event of a strike. View that announcement here.

We recognize that for some of you these protocols may not be enough. If you can’t wait for reimbursement or your child needs accessible transportation services, feel free to call the AFC Helpline at (866) 427-6033 for more information.

To get updates as the threat of the strike progresses, we urge you to return to the DOE's website frequently at http://schools.nyc.gov or call 311.

01.11.2013 |  AFC has signed on to a joint issue brief of the Advancement Project, the Alliance for Educational Justice, the Dignity in Schools Campaign, and the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, entitled "Police in Schools are Not the Answer to the Newtown Shooting." The brief explains why police in schools are not the answer to reducing violence in our communities and classrooms, sheds light on the unintended consequences of placing more police in our schools, and recommends what steps should be taken to ensure that all young people are safe in their schools. As the brief notes, "We have seen increased police presence leading to high numbers of youth – particularly youth of color, students with disabilities, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) students, and gender non-conforming students – being arrested for minor and trivial misbehaviors. We have seen young people who are pushed out of schools by hostile and prison-like school cultures. We have seen time, energy, and resources devoted to the criminalization, not the education, of young people." View the issue brief

01.02.2013 | AFC commends the New York Education Reform Commission for proposing an expansion of high-quality prekindergarten programs. At a time when the city and state are implementing the rigorous Common Core Standards and emphasizing college and career readiness, we cannot afford to have some children start school behind. Providing high-quality prekindergarten programs to low-income children is one of the most effective strategies for improving educational outcomes... Read full statement

12.13.2012 | Today, AFC, the Alliance for Quality Education (AQE), and parents gathered in Albany to speak about the vital role that preschool special education services play in helping preschoolers with delays prepare for kindergarten. Recent media attention around fraud and inefficiencies in the program may threaten its state funding. The state should crack down on fraud. However, the state should not use fraud as a justification for proposing changes that make it harder for young children with delays to access the services they need at the time when these services have the greatest impact.  Read our recommendations in support of the preschool special education program.

12.06.2012 | Today, the DOE proposed changes to the Chancellor’s Regulations to make kindergarten mandatory with certain exceptions. While the proposed regulations include exceptions required by state law, the proposal sends the message that kindergarten is a fundamental part of a child’s education... Read full statement