Budgetize Fairness for Students w/ Disabilities- Email Template

Jenn Choi
5 min readMar 30, 2023

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Here’s an Email You Can Send Today While They Are Still Figuring Out the 2023–24 Budget

Describing how kids in self-contained classes don’t ever get SETSS as if Special Class and SETSS are repellants to each other. Watch HERE: It’s what we have all experienced

For so long, our children have been denied a free and appropriate public education because paying for their services has been a school budget’s nightmare.

Variations of “We don’t have that here,” are something that every parent of a student with a disability has heard.

"We don’t have enough kids for an ICT class”
“We don’t provide self-contained classes here”
“CTE does not come with the ICT program”
“You can’t have ICT for AP or Honors”
“There is no such thing as 1:1 SETSS”

Right now, our city’s leaders are deciding on school budgets and how they are going to allocate money for special education services. While the district always tells us special education decisions are based on individual needs, if you have heard anything like “we don’t have that here,” then you know that funding and possibly bias* play into the decision-making.

A snippet of an email: My name is Blocked Out Name and I am the IEP coordinator at Blocked Out Name High school. I can answer your special education questions. All grades have ICT classes for the core major subjects of Math, Science, History, and English. A student can be in an AP class and have other classes that are not AP that are ICT but, our AP classes are not co taught. We do not have ICT classes for LOTE.
They are not allowed to say/do this but they do. This is an actual NYC Public Schools email from SY 22–23 (LOTE= Language Other Than English ie. Spanish, Chinese, French, Latin, a course required for graduation)

“Breakage”: The Inconvenience of Special Ed in Budgeting

There is even a term for when it is inconvenient to pay for special education services ie. “Not enough kids for an ICT class.” The term is called “breakage.” Basically, let’s say just three kids needed ICT or a 12:1 class at school. This would be “breakage” because the funding that goes with the three students doesn’t amount to a full teacher’s salary. It was even a considerable discussion item in the recent Fair Student Funding Formula Working Group meetings.

If giving a service to a child means the school will deal with “breakage,” you will likely hear that your child is fine. No additional services are needed if you are on grade level, they will say, but that is actually not a lawfully supported reason.

Reason for Rejection: The team felt that the child is not eligible for special education services because NameWitheld is functioning on grade level.

“Approaching grade level” is not “below grade level”

2s means they’re on grade level

Your child has a behavior problem, not an academic one

Enough. Let’s Tell the Leaders What We Want

Since it’s budget season, let’s take a minute to say that the 1-billion-dollar impartial hearing payments for special education will only keep growing until NYC Public Schools make it easier for schools to give students with IEPs what they really need.

I can’t promise you a big change but at least you can say you tried. You can even have your children write an email too. Send a pic if you like.

Here is an email template for you to tell Chancellor Banks and City Council Education Chair Rita Joseph about your experiences and what you want. You can CC or BCC me too! It would be cool to keep count!

TO:
NYC Council Educ.Comm. Chair Rita Joseph- District40@council.nyc.gov
Chair Joseph’s Chief of Staff Taiquan Coleman- TColeman@council.nyc.gov
NYC Public Schools Chancellor Banks- DavidCBanks@schools.nyc.gov
Lisette Saravia, Spec Assistant to Chancellor- LSaravia3@schools.nyc.gov

CC or BCC: jenn@specialsupportservices.com

SUBJECT: How to fix FSF Breakage

Dear Chair Joseph and Chancellor Banks:

As you are both very concerned with reducing the 1 billion dollar payments in special education by vastly improving access to Free and Appropriate Public Education for students with disabilities, I ask you to use this time to solve the longstanding problem of what is called “Breakage.” This is a term used to describe the difficulty in finding the funds to hire a teacher when the funds accompanying a student(s) with an IEP are insufficient to hire needed special education teachers. Teachers don’t come in pieces but the Fair Student Funding funds special education teacher services that way.

Instead, I ask you to create a mechanism to eliminate breakage issues. Please consider creating School Allocation Memorandums for ALL special education instructional services including:

  • SETSS (Special Education Teacher Support Services) in which more funding is provided for more frequency and smaller group sizes, more funding when given to students in self-contained classes.
  • Special Class in which more funding is given when SC is provided for any subject including CTE, Language Other Than English (LOTE), etc
  • Integrated Co-Teaching (ICT) in which more funding is provided for any subject including LOTE and CTE and not just the core subjects, and specify that AP courses can have ICT too.

By doing this, you will relieve the pressure on schools trying to reduce the unfunded financial burden of providing needed special education instructional services that won’t amount to a teacher’s salary. More importantly, due process complaints will decrease and more students with disabilities will stay in their neighborhood schools and learn with their peers.

I know this is a problem because I had trouble getting services for my own child. (Insert your story here in bold print)

For another example of what I mean, please take a look at the video and written testimony for a recent City Council Education Committee hearing. The problems described here are very very real. I’ve seen this too.

Thank you.
Sincerely,
YOUR NAME
Parent of a ____ grade student
Your Borough

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — -
Simple, right?
You can do it!
NYC Public Schools Staff: Contact me and I will send it for you without your name.
Parents in the middle of a due process complaint can send it to me and I will send it for you.
This letter is available via Google Doc here.

Since there is no ICT in the CTE courses, we would encourage our families to consider the limitations of their child and what is appropriate for them. Our students must not only take four years of CTE classes that as they get older become 2–3 periods a day, but they also have to do 60 hours of work-based learning (internship) and pass their national certification exams in order to be licensed in their area of study. Because these students would need to be able to work without assistance in the
This is an actual email from an NYC Public Schools school replying to a parent

*Bias might come from constantly having to justify the funding decisions based on the needs of others versus the needs of the student with a disability. Like a chicken and an egg, it’s hard to know what came first — Bias or the Fair Student Funding Formula?

Send that email! Thank you for uplifting our kids and community.

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Jenn Choi

Special Education Advocate at @go3snyc supporting families navigate the special education process, AT coach, http://specialsupportservices.com