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Hochul signs special education bills into law; $240M in state funding to private schools

Gov. Kathy Hochul.
Office of Gov. Kathy Hochul
Gov. Kathy Hochul.

Some students with disabilities may see a boost in support this coming year as Gov. Kathy Hochul signed a package of bills into law on Thursday that would do just that.

The new legislation includes designating a newly established Autism Spectrum Disorders Advisory Board. The board would in part help health care providers and educators better diagnose autism.

The new special education law would also designate an impartial hearing officer who would address complaints about due process for students with disabilities and make some license requirements in New York consistent with other states.

Brigit Hurley, chief program officer with The Children’s Agenda, is most hopeful about an increase in funding for early intervention services for infants and toddlers. She said those services are often difficult to access for parents.

“(Early intervention specialists) work with the family to help the parents understand how to best support their child who may be not walking quite when they should, they might have difficulty with speech, or they might be a medically complex child,” Hurley said.

Tina Carney, a parent and an advocate for early intervention said her own daughter had been put on a waiting list for state-funded early intervention programming — a delay that cost her family time to help her child when she needed it most.

“It’s such a very short window, 0 to 3 years, in the grand scheme of things. It’s not a long time but it is a lot when it comes to a child’s development,” Carney said. “They are developing the most rapidly during that stage of life.”

That experience sparked Carney’s advocacy for more accessible early intervention services for New Yorkers.

Carney's optimistic that this new legislation will make it easier for families to access the early childhood supports their children need, and set up their children for success into adulthood.

Hochul vetoed another bill aimed at reforming special education practices. The legislation would have amended state education law to allow for revisiting tuition reimbursement calculations for children with disabilities in preschool and higher grades.

Noelle E. C. Evans is WXXI's Murrow Award-winning Education reporter/producer.