MORRIS COUNTY — Senator Joe Pennacchio voiced his concern that the state’s special education students are being forgotten as plans for the re-opening of schools in September continue to evolve.
“Going back to school is a dynamic situation right now, and specifics are changing every day,” said Pennacchio. “What about the plans for special education students? These students face unique challenges and the Department of Education and school districts must make it a priority to ensure their needs are met and the quality of special education exceeds the standards.
“My message to the Governor and the education commissioner is clear: Don’t forget about special needs. Special needs should be on the top of your list.”
Disruptions like those created by the coronavirus pandemic can have a much more severe impact on special students who depend on consistency and familiarity, Pennacchio noted.
“They learn differently. They are taught differently. We can’t expect to sit them in front of a computer at home and effectively educate them,” said Pennacchio. “It’s just not practical.”
Pennacchio said the state has had five months to devise a plan for special education, but there has been no sign of one.
“I don’t want special education to resemble the horrific rollout at the MVC. These kids and their parents deserve better, and they are counting on a responsible approach from the state,” said Pennacchio.
“We should have had a plan in the works for months. The Legislature should have been involved, holding open committee hearings to determine the best ways to approach this,” the Senator said. “Where’s the plan, any plan, that could be properly vetted out and discussed?”
Senator Pennacchio has been on the forefront of fighting for special needs children. For years he has been calling for the state to pay the entire cost of special education, a move that would help students and property taxpayers.
Pennacchio also worked with Senate President Steve Sweeney, trying to get the state to pick up extraordinary special education costs.
Extraordinary special education costs are expenses districts incur while providing direct instructional and support services to a special education student. In some cases, the costs for an individual student can exceed $100,000.