New York City parents have expressed worry over a move to shift responsibility for hiring judges who handle special-education complaints.
They believe this move will strain the overburdened system and make it more difficult for parents to get their concerns addressed.
“They’re taking away that independent system,” said Rima Izquierdo, a Bronx parent.
She added that under the new system, the city will be “judge, jury and executioner.”
Some parents believed the DOE failed to meet their special-education needs in the past. They could take up their case with impartial hearing officers hired by the state, who could force the department to shape up or mandate additional services.
Officials agreed to shift responsibility for the hiring of the hearing officers from the state to the city’s Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings (OATH). This was before former Mayor Bill de Blasio left office in December.
Now, some parents of kids with disabilities argue that a conflict of interest arises by asking city-employed administrative judges to adjudicate disputes involving another city agency.
State and city Education Department officials have been searching for ways to lessen the backlogs, entertaining ideas like hiring non-lawyers to serve as hearing officers.
The shift to OATH is an effort to decrease the backlog and make the system run more efficiently, city and state officials say.