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Harrison Board of Education Asks Cuomo To Veto Special Ed Bill

HARRISON, N.Y. — The Harrison Board of Education  is urging Gov. Andrew Cuomo to veto a bill that would allow parents to choose a school for their kids with special needs, arguing that it is another unfunded mandate that will drive up costs for school districts.

The bill, which passed in both the Assembly and State Senate, was introduced by Brooklyn Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein and Long Island Sen. John Flanagan. The bill would consider “home environment and family background” when deciding to place a special-education student in a public or private school.

Assemblyman Robert Castelli, who represents Harrison, voted against the bill, while  Harrison's State Senator, Suzi Oppenheimer, voted for it — though she now says her vote was a mistake and is urging Cuomo to veto the bill.

School Board member David Singer said the bill is not a good idea, since school districts are already faced with plenty of unfunded mandates from the state. He added that the money required to potentially pay for the impacts of this bill, if it is signed into law, would not be exempt from the 2 percent tax levy cap. New York City schools, some of which are in Weinstein’s district, are exempt from the tax cap.

“This bill was designed to benefit two distinct constituencies: Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn and Rockland County, and the Catholic school community,” Singer said. “The law was drafted a little more broadly, which poses huge unfunded mandates on school districts.”

Singer said the bill, if it becomes law, would ultimately lead to more lawsuits when someone’s child is denied from a particular school. He said the bill could potentially cost school districts thousands of dollars at a time when spending by districts has been greatly constrained by the state.

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