Tuesday afternoon, Gov. Andrew Cuomo vetoed Senate Bill 7722-A, which would have required schools to take family and cultural background into account in the placement of special education students.
In his leter to the Senate, Cuomo cited many of the concerns raised by critics of the legislation, including the potential costs to school districts and taxpayers.
"This legislation would require that each school district 'take into any possible educational impact differences between the school environment and the child's home environment and family background may have on the child's ability to receive a free appropriate public education.'" Cuomo wrote. "This contitutes and overly broad and ambiguous mandate that would result in incalculable significant additional costs to be borne by every school district and taxpayer.
"This proposal would significantly expand the scope of private placements and public reimbursement of private tuition costs at great taxpayer expense."
State Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee (D-Suffern) voted against the bill.
“As a former special education teacher I understand the importance of providing an appropriate education to children with special needs," Jaffee said. "However, I voted against this legislation because it not only imposed financial challenges to our public school districts, but also legal challenges given that it was in conflict with federal law."
Educators were among many in the state who have spoken out in opposition to the bill, raising concerns regarding the potential financial burden for schools and the risks involved with vague language it contains. The Harrison Board of Education was one of several area school boards to publicly stand against the bill's passage.
In addition to a group of schools in Westchester County that passed resolutions opposing the legislation, the following groups asked Cuomo to veto it.
- Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of New York City
- Council of New York Special Education Administrators (CNYSEA)
- Long Island Association of Special Education Administrators (LIASEA)
- NYS Council of School Superintendents
- Lower Hudson Council of School Superintendents Council of New York Special Education Administrators (CNYSEA)
- League of Women Voters
- NYS PTA
- National School Boards Association
- Rural Schools Association
- New York State United Teachers
- Council of Big 5 School Districts
- New York City Partnership
Cuomo also mentioned the large number of groups that asked for the bill to be vetoed in his letter explaining the decision.
"This administration, through the passage of two state budgets, as well as a property tax cap, mandate relief measures, and other legislation, has successfully sought to reduce mandates and the financial burden on local governments, school districts and taxpayers throughout the state," Cuomo wrote. "It is committed to providing the best education and assistance to every child in New York, including children with disabilities. While I remain committed to working with the Legislature and those interested in better serving the needs of our state's children, particularly those with special needs, this bill, for the reasons detailed above, is not approved."
Supporters of the legislation argued that it would reduce litigation regarding the placement of special education students, but those who argue that the language is not clear enough have called that into question.
Assembly Bill 10722/Senate Bill 7722 would call for schools to take a student's home life and cultural environment into account when making placement decisions.