Monroe County Executive candidate Adam Bello announced on Thursday a plan for the county to change how it handles special education for young children.
Preschool special education services help young children between 3 and 5 years old who are diagnosed with autism and other developmental delays.
The Democrat, who is challenging County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo for her seat, said the county doesn’t work well with the state, school districts or other stakeholders on the issue.
“One of the fundamental responsibilities of any community is for it to protect and care for its children,” said Bello. “By any measure, the current county administration is failing in that responsibility when it comes to supporting early intervention and preschool special education services.”
If elected, Bello wants to hire 10 more service providers and raise the reimbursement rates for providers who treat children between 3 and 5 years old.
The county can do that because it has some control over those rates. But for those providers who treat kids younger than 3, the state has control over how much they’re reimbursed. Bello wants to up the pressure on Albany to raise those rates, too.
Bello said these kinds of services helped his son, who had a speech delay.
“I’ve been able to see firsthand from a parent’s perspective the real value that is placed on being able to serve children like my own at a young age, before they reach the school district,” said Bello. “My family was incredibly fortunate, and the experience that we had just isn’t as accessible to families in Monroe County as it used to be and should be.”
Bridget Harvey, a spokesperson for Dinolfo’s campaign, said via an emailed statement that they’ve already addressed these issues.
“Adam doesn’t have the spine to stand up to Andrew Cuomo on behalf of our kids, as County Executive Dinolfo has done and will continue to do,” said Harvey.
Bello acknowledged Dinolfo has raised rates, but says that doesn’t go far enough.