NYC Special Needs Voucher Program Is Not Enough

This is the part two of a series on students with special needs by Guest Blogger and SLP Intern Juliana Castro. 

According to a recent article on Chalkbeat (an incredible resource for education-related news), NYC families face a Herculean task when trying to arrange critical support for children with special needs.  The City is home to thousands of young students with special needs and many families rely on government support to find and afford help such as physical therapy, medical services, and counseling for their children. When the Department of Education (DOE) is unable to provide sufficient in-school services, parents are given a voucher to pay outside providers. Just finding these providers, however, proves to be a very daunting task. During the 2015-16 school year, families redeemed only half of the vouchers issued. During the same year, just 59% of students with special needs received needed services, while thousands received none at all.  Families struggle to find providers in their neighborhoods and have difficulty arranging (and getting reimbursed for) transportation.  Many providers are simply difficult to reach.

Chalkbeat interviewed Maggie Moroff, a disability policy expert at Advocates for Children, who called these findings from the NYC Public Advocate’s office, “not surprising.”  Services for students with disabilities, she added, are as “crucial as general academic instruction.”  She explained, “It’s all the other things that go into a student’s ability to process and learn and develop in school.  Without any of them, you’re denying a student a really important piece of their education.”