Home > Uncategorized > Privatization Blues: NYS’s Pre-School Special Ed

Privatization Blues: NYS’s Pre-School Special Ed

July 17, 2012

An editorial in today’s NYTimes decries the lack of regulatory oversight of New York State’s pre-school special education programs, citing the following as evidence for this need:

Late last month, Thomas DiNapoli, the state comptroller, issued three damning audits of prekindergarten service companies whose owners have since been hit with criminal charges for defrauding the state. A company called Capital District Beginnings improperly diverted $800,000. The owner of a Brooklyn company called Special Education Associates Inc., who has pleaded guilty to defrauding the government, paid his wife $150,000 as his assistant executive director while she was earning $90,000 a year as a full-time professor at the City University of New York.

Now fans of privatization will say that there are similar cases in other States (which is true— but all have been aggressively prosecuted) and also assert that privatization will necessarily lead to lower costs to taxpayers, which is NOT true:

The preschool special education system serves more than 75,000 children a year across the state. The program this year will cost about $2 billion (or $26,660 per student)— up from about $792 million a decade ago, when about 60,000 children were enrolled (which means each additional student costs $52,000+). Part of the run-up has to do with an increase in the number of children diagnosed with autism, thanks to greater awareness of the disorder, making them candidates for intensive services.

The program’s structure may also be at fault. It is essentially run by private companies that often have two potentially conflicting roles: diagnosing the children and providing the services the diagnosis is thought to require. It would make sense to have neutral parties do the evaluations. (emphasis added)

The preschool special education lobby is politically powerful. But with costs soaring and evidence of wrongdoing mounting, lawmakers must give this program the scrutiny it deserves. When it comes to serving disabled children, every dollar should count.

The facts notwithstanding, I doubt that those calling for privatization will change their thinking and doubt that any NYS politicians will be calling for more staff to assist with oversight of the private firms… and the soaring costs of special education will be used as further evidence of the failure of public schools.


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