The control over NY State’s program for disabled children has to be tightened. The program aimed at providing special Pre-K education for children with physical or learning disabilities has proved to be working fine over the years. It helps children aged 3 to 5 with special needs to better prepare for school and develop their communicative and learning skills.
Nationwide, special education for children with disabilities is provided by public school districts, in New York, however, private contractors are hired to arrange day care centers for children, organize group classes and deliver individual mentoring sessions at home.
Although this program has existed and successfully operated for a few years, it is only now that the state authorities have become concerned about the amount of money spent on it. The recent audits of some contractors exposed a number of shortcomings in their work. The analysis of city spending shows that the city has almost doubled their special Pre-K education expenses in recent years, however the number of children in need for such education has increased only slightly. Yearly the City spends more than $ 40,000 per one child, which is almost four times as much as Massachusetts’ special Pre-K education expenses and eight times the amount of money spent by the state of Pennsylvania.
The officials say they do not question the necessity to provide this money for disabled children but doubt that all of it is spent to benefit them. The numbers at question are impressive since the program accounts for 6% of the country’s $19 billion-education budget.
It is sad enough to say that the audit revealed numerous contractors who failed to fulfill their obligations and chose a “better” way to use the allotted money buying luxuries, taking long vacations abroad or simply employing relatives to fill the non-existent or no-show positions. As the result 7 out of 12 contractors are now facing criminal charges for frauding the Government.
The program has an essential flaw, experts say, for it involves the contractors who act as both specialists in diagnosing disabled children and those who provide treatment. The study showed that almost 80% of those who evaluated such children later became their special education teachers. Obviously, it is not how it should be done. For the program to be effective, a third party should be introduced to this equation to guarantee objective and unbiased evaluation.
To be fair, it is important to say that overspending is not completely the contractors’ fault. Autism awareness of the society resulted in escalating costs for creating new programs designed to help autistic children modify their behavior and adapt to school environment.
Special Pre-K education plays an important role in providing disabled children with opportunities to learn, socialize and develop. It has been proved that the early treatment for disabilities can have very positive results but if such treatment is provided, it should be done by honest and caring people who really want to help. In reality we see many special-ed Pre-K contractors who are willing to take advantage of these children on sufferance of those in power.