For proof that Mayor Bill de Blasio’s talk of “equity” in education was always hollow, consider the city’s humiliating settlement this month resolving a 2017 lawsuit over the Department of Education’s failure to provide federally mandated services to special-needs Bronx kids.
The class-action lawsuit exposed the emptiness of the DOE’s voucher system for services such as occupational and speech therapy, since getting a voucher required parents to navigate a byzantine system — and didn’t remotely guarantee that they could find a vendor to actually provide the help. The settlement requires the DOE to make good on both fronts and to get kids who couldn’t access the services (often for years) a real chance to make up the lost ground.
The Bronx case is just the tip of the iceberg of the DOE’s citywide failures here. Two years ago, The City’s Yoav Gonen flagged bureaucratic bungling that left some students with disabilities going as many as four years without mandated services. Another analysis showed that kids in low-income minority areas are the least likely to be referred for evaluation to qualify for early intervention services to address issues such as autism.
Back in May 2018, the state found the city out of compliance (for the 13th straight year) with federal law on providing special-ed services.
Then-Chancellor Richard Carranza spent his tenure haranguing white and Asian parents about “implicit bias” and privilege while his DOE was ignoring the needs of vulnerable black and Hispanic children he claimed to be protecting.
Sadly, the court didn’t put a special monitor in charge of ensuring the DOE makes good on its latest promises, so it’s a fair bet that parents will soon have to sue again to get fair treatment for their kids.
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