Under pressure from religious leaders, the state legislature this year approved a plan that would have allowed local school districts to reimburse parents for tuition costs if a disabled child requires special services in school.
The bill would have required a school district committee to consider the differences between a public school setting and the child's religious home life and pay for nonpublic school tuition if that's the best place for the child. A school district would have 90 days to grant or deny a parent's choice and reimburse families for tuition.
We believe the intent of the legislation is good, but it sets a precedent that could further blur the line between public and private education.
In his veto message, Cuomo said the bill "unfairly places the burden on taxpayers to support the provision of a private education." He said far more special education students would be placed in nonpublic schools under the bill at considerable cost to taxpayers, although the actual financial impact of the measure hasn't been determined. His concerns are understandable.
Special education is one of those state mandates that's a major expense for local school districts. Schools have a hard enough time keeping their budgets in line as it is and are in no position to take on the additional expense like this.
While we certainly support a parent's right to send their child to a private school, it's their choice to do so, so those parents should pay for it themselves. It's especially concerning that this bill would allow districts to reimburse tuition costs at private religious institutions because it could lead to the possibility of a local school district committee favoring one type of religious instruction over another.
That's a Pandora's Box best left shut.
If a child is in need of special education or other accommodations because of a disability, parents should avail themselves of the services already provided in the public school system. If they make the choice to continue sending their children to a private school, the cost of special services should come out of their own pockets, not everyone else's.