Outdated state funding process for preschool providers

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New York State funds preschool special education differently than school-age programs. This year, the governor is trying to make up for lost time by granting an 11% raise; however, the increase does not address the real problem: the methodology used to create the rate preschool programs receive.

Stakeholders advocated for a methodology that supports the needs of students, staff and real costs. The state Department of Education recommended the elimination of reconciliation and put forward proposals for a new methodology. While stakeholders and the state Department of Education are aligned and understand the needs of students with special needs, the State Budget Division remains the roadblock.

Current rate methodology requires programs to operate with rates that are 2 or 3 years old, resulting in programs being cash-strapped or having to borrow to meet student needs. The methodology has an impact on staffing, which is essential in operating programs. Special education teachers and therapeutic staff are in high demand and preschool programs are not competitive with the public sector, leading to turnover or an inability to recruit.

More and more children are going without special education services, and it’s not for lack of trying. Providers are willing to open new classrooms but need adequate funding and staffing.

Governor Kathy Hochul and Budget Director Robert Mujica must work to ensure continued and lasting equity in funding for all students with disabilities. We need competitive salaries for all staff. We need administrative reforms to fully realize the Governor’s $240 million investment.

Sheri L. Canfield

Albany

Owner, Spotted Zebra Learning Center/Bizzy Beez Classrooms

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