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HeartShare staff advocated in Albany calling for $337 million for the education of special needs children, particularly pre-school programs serving children with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
While in Albany, HeartShare educators highlighted the lack of funding for 853 schools, such as The HeartShare School, as well as the fact that there has not been an increase for special needs pre-schools in the past 6 years. “It’s imperative that the $337 million reach children with special needs. Early education can predict the trajectory of a child’s life, especially for a child with an intellectual and/or developmental disability,” remarked Carol Verdi, HeartShare Vice President of Education Services. At HeartShare pre-schools, a customized learning environment alongside therapeutic interventions means that children with developmental delays have the opportunity to reach their potential, including transitioning to a setting with children not challenged with a disability.
Additionally, the executive budget proposal includes a special education waiver, which exempts schools from providing services that are not mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). While the federal law requires schools to serve the needs of students diagnosed with disabilities, it does not necessarily guarantee the provision of unique supports that a student might need as designated by his/her Individualized Education Program (IEP). “It is our obligation to help children with special needs become as independent as possible. Without this investment, it is costly for the child, who will not perform as well, and for the state that will need to fund the education of that child later on when it is more expensive,” Verdi explained.
HeartShare opened the Mario and Matilda Raffa Cuomo First Step Early Childhood Center, one of the first programs of its kind in New York City for children two to five years of age in 1982. Today, HeartShare has four pre-schools in Brooklyn and Queens, as well as provides evaluation services for early intervention. The HeartShare School in Brooklyn educates and focuses on therapies for children ages 5-21 diagnosed with autism.