Public Advocate Letitia James filed a lawsuit today in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan against the New York City Department of Education (DOE) for failing to meet the needs of students with disabilities, according to a press statement from her office.
The lawsuit states that the DOE’s failure to adequately track the needs of students with disabilities has resulted in a severe lack of services for these children in the classroom and a major loss in Medicaid revenue for the City.
A 2013 survey from the Citywide Council on Special Education estimated that over 16,000 students with disabilities were not receiving their legally mandated services. And according to an analysis by the New York City Comptroller’s office, DOE failed to recoup a cumulative $356 million in federal Medicaid dollars for eligible special education services between fiscal years 2012 and 2014.
The lawsuit targets DOE’s Special Education Student Information System (SESIS), which was developed in 2009 and has cost the City $130 million. The intent of SESIS is to produce and track data about the Individual Education Programs (IEP) of students with disabilities and ensure compliance with federal and state reporting requirements.
Research and analysis conducted by the Public Advocate’s Office shows that SESIS is unable to do what it was intended to do. For example, repeated attempts to obtain data regarding IEPs from DOE – including from the Independent Budget Office (IBO) – have been declined. This failure to collect proper data has led to a lack of services for children with disabilities, and has deprived New York City of at hundreds of millions of dollars in Medicaid revenue.
“Failure of this system has not only let down our most vulnerable children, but also cheated our taxpayers,” said Public Advocate Letitia James. “DOE has failed our children with disabilities for decades — ignoring pleas of parents, students, and teachers — so we are taking them to court. We will never stop fighting for our children in need to get every opportunity they deserve.”