Funding for the 11 schools statewide that serve the educational needs of 1,700 blind, deaf and severely physically disabled children -- including three such schools on Long Island -- has been restored by the State Legislature, advocates said.
An earlier proposal by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo had put the schools' funding in jeopardy. Nearly 400 students on Long Island attend the three so-called "4201" schools here -- the Cleary School for the Deaf in Nesconset, the Henry Viscardi School for the disabled in Albertson and the Mill Neck Manor School for Deaf Children in Mill Neck.
"We are eternally grateful for the strong support from the legislature," said Ken Morseon, superintendent of the Cleary School.
Advocates said lawmakers have committed to a $98-million restoration to ensure that the schools continue to operate seamlessly and without disruption.
"For nearly 200 years the state has supported the education of some of New York's most vulnerable children," said Dr. Harold Mowl, chairman of the 4201 Schools Association. "We know that the governor and the legislature are committed to providing certainty and clarity for our students and families."
Under the agreement, a dedicated funding stream that is only applicable to 4201 costs will be provided by the state to local school districts and paid on a quarterly basis to the schools serving the blind, deaf and severely physically disabled. In addition, a new process to determine appropriate tuition payments for each school will be developed.
The schools now receive a direct funding line from the state. This year that is about $117 million. Cuomo's budget had eliminated that direct line of funding and would have forced school districts to pay some costs with a smaller contribution from the state. Now the districts will receive a dedicated funding stream for their students to attend the specialized schools.
State Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport), chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said, "What we did was make sure that $98 million did not go back onto the local property tax bill and make sure the schools will be able to remain viable."
More details on funding are being worked out with Cuomo's office, the state Department of Education and the Board of Regents, he said.
"We fixed it in the short term and are trying to make a genuine effort to fix it over the long term," Flanagan said.