Reaction to the rash, short-sighted decision of the NY State Board of Regents to cut speech service requirements

Elementary School USAKimberly writes: The disability community is currently digesting the decision that the NY State Board of Regents made this week which scales back speech service requirements. The Board released school districts from longstanding policies that they must give certain levels of speech services to students with autism and other disabilities. The decision by the Board of Regents sets back disability rights policy in New York about 20 years. (20 more years, and they can put students with disabilities back in Willowbrook Institution, while they are at it.)

There is background on this story about the Board of Regents vote at onthewilderside: here.

Please think about what you can do to reverse this horrible decision, which will make life more difficult for thousands of students with disabilities and their parents. If you have ever been through the frustration of a CSE/Committee on Special Education meeting, begging for services for your child, you will understand some of what was taken away from these children and their parents.

An e-mail update and alert from someone at Autism Action:

Dear All:

I attended the Meeting of the Board of Regents today in Albany with Mike Smith from the Foundation for Autism Information and Research.

Despite acknowledging hundreds of phone calls, emails, letters of opposition from various organizations from our community, the Regents voted the Article 200 regulations into extinction – some actually chuckled while doing so. These regulations offered at least some protections for our children for speech services and class size and gave parents at least some degree of support in Committee on Special Education meetings.

These regulations are now gone, dismissed with a wave of Regent Chancellor Merryl Tisch’s hands.

The disdain was not universal; Some – like Chancellor Emeritus Bennett – expressed concern stating “I am very concerned that we are reducing services…I also fear that we are upsetting the balance of the relationship between parents and CSE chairs.” Regent Chapey – who has a background in speech, language and hearing – also stated openly that there was no research that supported reducing speech services to those with autism. Further, Regent Cofield stated “There is distrust – We are not dealing with the distrust that people feel in the CSE process.”

Some Regents like Nassau ‘s Tilles and Westchester ‘s Phillips voiced support for the changes saying districts would take care of the families and would not cut services.

But, in the end, the Regents voted unanimously to cut speech services. Then some basically said that parents could use due process and “handle it that way.” One Regent indicated that children with autism use up all the services leaving nothing for other children.

In the end, Chancellor Tisch simply stated that districts need flexibility. They voted with her. Chancellor Tisch and the Regents have green lighted school districts to cut speech to children who – in some instances – can’t talk. Our children were not viewed as children with needs, who like all children have a right to a free and appropriate education, they were viewed as “unfunded mandates.”

I spoke to a few of the Regents – Chancellor Emeritus Bennett for a few minutes. He suggested that he was open to establishing a committee to focus on autism and connected me to an outraged member of NYSUT. My conversation with Mr. Phillips was not pleasant. I told Harry that he just did the wrong thing and he has no idea how badly he and the Regents have hurt families with autism.

Mike Smith and I spoke to the Albany Press. Later in the day, I spoke with a reporter from Newsday.

All of us who have had struggles with our children’s CSEs know what is now going to happen. In this budget environment, it will likely mean the elimination of most speech services and stretching autism classrooms to the max – risking the safety of our children.

The New York State Education Department has walked away from our children. It is time to fight back.

I ask all of you to put this out on your lists and let our community throughout the state know what has happened here.

More to come.
Louis Conte


Who are the NY State Board of Regents?

Description of the Board of Regents at the bottom of this post.

From a previous onthewilderside post, below is the contact information for the NY State Board of Regents. Please consider registering your disagreement with their decision. And, if you know any of them, consider educating or lobbying them personally.

David Steiner, Commissioner
New York State Education Department
89 Washington Avenue
Albany, New York 12234
(518) 474-5844

Merryl H. Tisch, Chancellor
9 East 79th Street
N.Y., N.Y. 10075
Phone (212) 879-9414

Milton L. Cofield, Vice Chancellor
Judicial District VII – Cayuga, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Seneca,
Steuben, Wayne, Yates
98 Hickory Ridge Road
Rochester, N.Y. 14625
Phone (585) 200-6284

Robert M. Bennett, Chancellor Emeritus
Judicial District VIII — Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie,
Genesee, Niagara, Orleans and Wyoming
201 Millwood Lane
Tonawanda, NY 14150
Phone: (716) 645-1344

James C. Dawson
Judicial District IV — Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Hamilton,
Montgomery, St. Lawrence, Saratoga, Schenectady, Warren, Washington
166 U.S. Oval
Plattsburgh, NY 12903
(518) 324-2401

Anthony S. Bottar
Judicial District V — Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Oneida, Onondaga,
and Oswego
120 Madison Street, Suite 1600, AXA Tower II
Syracuse, NY 13202
(315) 422-3466

Geraldine D. Chapey
Judicial District XI — Queens
107-10 Shore Front Parkway, Apt. 9C
Belle Harbor, NY 11694
Phone: (718) 634-8471

Harry Phillips, III
Judicial District IX — Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland and Westchester
71 Hawthorne Way
Hartsdale, NY 10530
Phone: (914) 948-2228

James R. Tallon, Jr.
Judicial District VI – Broome, Chemung, Chenango, Cortland, Delaware,
Madison, Otsego, Schuyler, Tioga, Tompkins
United Hospital Fund
Empire State Building
350 Fifth Avenue, 23rd Floor
New York, N.Y. 10118-0110
Phone (212) 494-0777

Roger Tilles
Judicial District Nassau, Suffolk
100 Crossways Park West, Suite 107
Woodbury, N.Y. 11797
Phone (516) 364-2533

Karen Brooks Hopkins
Judicial District II – Kings
30 Lafayette Avenue
Brooklyn, N.Y. 11217
Phone (718) 636-4135

Charles R. Bendit
Judicial District I – Manhattan
111 Eighth Avenue, Suite 1500
New York, N.Y. 10011
Phone (212) 220-9945

Betty A. Rosa
Judicial District XII – Bronx
Chambreleng Hall, Fordham University
441 East Fordham Road
Bronx, N.Y. 10458
Phone (718) 817-5053

Lester W. Young, Jr.
55 Hanson Place Suite 400
Brooklyn N.Y. 11217
Phone (718) 722-2796

Christine D. Cea
Judicial District XIII –Richmond
NYS Institute for Basic Research in Developmental Disabilities
1050 Forest Hill Roada۬, Staten Island, NY 10314
Phone (718) 494-5306

Wade S. Norwood
74 Appleton Street
Rochester, NY 14611
Phone (585) 436-294

– – –

What is the NY State Board of Regents? And…Who appoints or elects the NY State Board of Regents?

From the NY State Board of Regents “About Page”:

The Regents are responsible for the general supervision of all educational activities within the State, presiding over The University and the New York State Education Department. The Regents are organized into standing committees and subcommittees whose members and chairs are appointed by the Chancellor.

The Board comprises 17 members elected by the State Legislature for 5 year terms: 1 from each of the State’s 13 judicial districts and 4 members who serve at large. Regents are unsalaried and are reimbursed only for travel and related expenses in connection with their official duties.

The Regents have identified six goals for lifelong education, encompassing infancy through senior years:

  1. Every child will get a good start.
  2. Every child will read by the second grade.
  3. Every student will complete middle level education ready for high school.
  4. Every student will graduate from high school ready for work, higher education and citizenship.
  5. People who begin higher education will complete their programs.
  6. People of all ages who seek more knowledge and skill will have the fullest opportunity to continue their education.

How can citizens monitor the work of the NY State Board of Regents?

The NY State Legislators are the people who elect the Board of Regents. So, besides complaining directly to the Board of Regents, you could ask questions and register complaints with your NY State Senator and NY State Assemblyperson. In addition, there is a system to watch webcasts of NY State Board of Regents meetings: here.

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