The fierce fight waged by NYSUT and advocates for needy students helped preserve the state's 4201 schools. Funding for the 11 schools serving 1,700 blind, deaf and severely physically disabled children was restored in the state budget agreement.
NYSUT members work in seven of the private, state-supported schools — the Henry Viscardi School and the Mill Neck School for the Deaf in Nassau County, St. Mary's School for the Deaf in Buffalo, the Rochester School for the Deaf, the Lexington School for the Deaf in Queens, the Lavelle School for the Blind in the Bronx and the New York School for the Deaf in White Plains.
"Our members in those schools are committed to their students' success," said NYSUT Executive Vice President Andy Pallotta. "While the new formula isn't perfect, it will keep the classrooms in these world-class schools open."
Under the deal, school districts will pay 4201 schools upfront, and districts will then be reimbursed by the state. In addition, the schools and the state Education Department are developing a new process to determine appropriate tuition payments for each school.
In coalition with parents, students and administrators, hundreds of NYSUT members were part of the massive advocacy effort for the schools, from a lobby day in Albany to meetings with local legislators.
"It's a good thing we are still state-funded," said Neil Davino, president of the local union at the NY School for the Deaf. He does, however, worry some districts may not send their students because of the new funding system and "kids will lose out on being part of our unique program."