Latest News

Balancing Special-Education Needs With Rising Costs

Dylan B. Randall could not speak or stand. He never tasted food because he was fed through a gastric tube in his belly. He breathed through a ventilator; his own saliva would choke him unless a nurse cleared his throat every few minutes.

It was a daily struggle to keep Dylan alive, much less educate him. And when his public school could not deliver all the daily therapy the then 5-year-old was supposed to receive, his parents asked that New York City pay for what they believed was the kind of education Dylan needed: a private school for disabled children.

Rather than pay, however, the city decided to fight. For several months, the Randalls and their lawyers battled with city lawyers, until Nov. 18, when a hearing officer ruled in the family’s favor. Not only did the boy deserve placement in a private school, the hearing officer, Diane R. Cohen, said, but he was also owed hundreds of therapy sessions that the city had failed to deliver during his kindergarten year. …

His case was one of thousands being fought each year as a growing number of families seeking private schooling at public expense have butted up against the city’s attempts to keep spending under control. This year, after complaints from parent groups reached state legislators, Mayor Bill de Blasioagreed to make changes that would streamline the process for some families, though he did not promise to challenge them less often.