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City Might Have to Cough Up $40 Million in Private School Tuition for Special Needs Kindergarten Kids

By DNAinfo Staff on June 24, 2011 4:54pm

The city is required to pay private school tuition for students with special needs that it can't serve.
The city is required to pay private school tuition for students with special needs that it can't serve.
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By Jill Colvin

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

MIDTOWN — The city could be forced to shell out nearly $44 million in private school tuition after failing to place thousands of kindergarten students with special needs in public schools for next fall, according to a new report by Public Advocate Bill de Blasio.

The city is legally required to pay for private school tuition if it cannot provide adequate services for kids in public schools.

Only 9,000 out of 11,500 eligible kids were placed in public school programs by the June 15 deadline, de Blasio said, making the remaining 2,500 students automatically eligible for private school reimbursement.

There are, however, not enough private school slots to accommodate all of the students.

Even if only half of those children take the offer, the city would be forced to shell out $44 million — $10 million more than the cost of public school programs for kindergarten, de Blasio said.

City officials said that more comprehensive testing and a new computer system delayed the placement process.

They also remain confident the overwhelming majority of parents of kids who weren't placed will choose to enroll in public schools close to their homes, which they still have the option to do.

"They won't end up in private schools," Mayor Michael Bloomberg assured WOR's John Gambling during his weekly radio sit-down Friday.

Still, he acknowledged the problem of growing demand.

"The problem [is] you have is more and more kids want to go to New York City public school systems," he said.

And while "probably in the majority of the cases" applications are legit, he added, some may just be looking for a free ride.

"There is some scamming," the mayor said.

In total, the city spends about $100 million in private school tuition for special needs kids in all grades who can't be placed in public schools, the mayor said.