Education Policy

Image of bookshelf with books.
Education is often the missing link…
The lack of education keeps people with disabilities from being able to get jobs, especially well-paying jobs, leaving many in persistent poverty. The problems begin in elementary school. Some children who are identified as having disabilities are written off by educators as unteachable, even though their disabilities may have nothing to do with learning. Other children may be incorrectly placed in the special education system because English is not their first language, or they face life situations that temporarily make them behave unacceptably. New York City’s special education system is extraordinarily complicated and difficult for parents and students to navigate. Few students graduate from it with “real” high school diplomas that qualify them to go on to further education or find work. Many never acquire essential literacy skills needed in everyday adult life. Education takes on renewed importance when working adults become disabled in ways that interfere with their ability to work. Retraining may be necessary to enable them to go back to work. It can be a major challenge to find ways to pay for job training or college tuition. Too often, the adults with disabilities are steered toward training for entry-level, dead-end jobs.

Our 2024 Education Legislative Agenda items include the following:

CIDNY supports the “Dyslexia Diagnosis Access Act” (S05481/ A02898): Children with dyslexia are at higher risk for experiencing anxiety and poor mental health, according to a review of multiple longitudinal studies of the correlation between mental health and dyslexia published in 2023 by Wilmot et al. The review found these issues mainly stem from difficulties in the classroom, where either the student is not diagnosed early enough (if at all) and struggles to keep up, or their teacher does not understand the difference in the way a student with dyslexia needs to be taught. 8 CIDNY supports S05481/A02898, which “would require health insurance plans to pay for neuropsychological exams to diagnose dyslexia,” meaning that many families who were previously unable to afford a dyslexia diagnosis for their child would now be able to, ensuring that their children have access to the supports they need. An increased access to diagnosis also means being able to report statistics that more accurately reflect the dyslexic community (it is estimated that approximately 1 in 5 students has dyslexia or a similar phonemic awareness learning disability). Statistics that accurately reflect higher numbers will emphasize the need to train educators in more effective methods of teaching dyslexic students.

CIDNY supports the comprehensive sexuality instruction for students in grades K- 12: The disabled community is disproportionately likely to experience sexual assault. In 2021, the United States Bureau of Justice Statistics reported a person with a disability is approximately four times likelier than a person without a disability to be sexually assaulted during their lifetime. In 2015, a study by Wilczynski et al. found that anywhere between 40% and 70% of girls with disabilities will experience sexual abuse before they turn 18, as will 30% of boys with disabilities. Those numbers are consistent across multiple other studies, and are most likely undercounts: people with disabilities are twice as likely as people without disabilities to not report an assault. There is often an assumption that the reason for the higher numbers has to do with physical vulnerabilities that make violence more difficult to resist or report. Sometimes that is true. But most times it isn’t. Most times, the higher numbers are born from an education: people with disabilities are informally and systemically taught to accept their own discomfort, even by those who mean well. Comprehensive sexuality education is built on an evidence-based, medically accurate, and age-appropriate curriculum that refutes the narrative that one’s discomfort must be endured. A comprehensive sexuality education means that students are taught about disease prevention and contraception, and also about consent, communication, human development, healthy relationships, and personal boundaries. From kindergarten through 12th grade, students are taught about bodily autonomy: how to recognize it, how to voice it, and how to value it. CIDNY supports providing New York students with the protective knowledge and skillset that comprehensive sexuality education provides.

CIDNY supports the protection of educational programs at risk of being cut as federal stimulus funds expire: Since the onset of the pandemic, the federal government has provided the New York City Department of Education with $7 billion in COVID-19 stimulus funding. While some of that money was used to address short-term problems caused directly by COVID, New York City Public Schools (NYCPS) has been using approximately $1 billion per year on programs that address long-term challenges predating the pandemic- such as staffing shortages, outdated and ineffective curricula, and a youth mental health crisis. Those funds will officially expire in June of 2024. The issues they have been funding will not. The loss of these funds will force program cuts that disproportionately affect students with disabilities, as they attempt to navigate a school system with reduced support for preschool special education, dyslexia and literacy initiatives, community schools, restorative justice, school social workers, school nurses, school psychologists, coordinators working in homeless shelters, and bilingual staff, at a time when enrollment is up and more students than ever are in need of these services. CIDNY supports finding alternative revenue streams at both a city and a state level to replace the federal funding public schools across the state, not just New York City, will soon lose, and using those funds to maintain at least the level of support currently provided to students, especially those with disabilities.

CIDNY supports ensuring that campuses across the City University of New York (CUNY) system and the State University of New York (SUNY) system are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): Under the ADA, students with disabilities are entitled to an accessible college campus. However, many CUNY and SUNY campuses fall short of what the ADA stipulates: classrooms, libraries, students housing, dining facilities, and offices are not always physically accessible. Signs, including on bathrooms and classroom numbers are not always available in large print or Braille. There are shortages in assistive technology (e.g. screen readers). Students with learning, mental, or developmental disabilities who are entitled to accommodations within the classroom must often depend on professors who do not know how to offer aid. CIDNY supports legislation that would ensure students with disabilities receive appropriate accommodations they are entitled to under the ADA at every stage and in every area of the college process, from application through graduation.


Allies and Partners

CIDNY works in cooperation with several organizations concerned with special education in New York City. We invite you to learn more about:

ARISE Child & Family Services
Advocates for Children