By Regina Skyer
Last week we reported to you that almost 70 percent of parents who settled with the City on a tuition reimbursement case were still waiting for their money. As of today, that number is closer to 60%, but there is still a long way to go.
I wanted to share with you, with the kind permission of a client, an excellent example of the kind of personal letter we have been encouraging our affected clients to send to their Councilmembers. This mom’s letter is direct, honest, and to the point. I think it will be highly effective in communicating the severity of the situation to this elected official.
Please read what she wrote, and if you haven’t sent in your own letter yet, there are instructions at the bottom of this page for how to find your Councilmember’s contact information.
My son and I live in Brooklyn and you are our City Councilman. I am writing to make sure that you are aware of a serious problem within the DeBlasio administration that is affecting my son and, no doubt, other school-aged children in your district. I hope you can help me and my son get the payment that the City promised to us. Please also ask your colleagues on the City Council to allow our attorney, Regina Skyer, to address the City Council about this issue.
As you may know, students, like my son, who cannot get an appropriate education within the NYC public school system -– so called “special needs students” -- can pursue their legal right to have the City of New York pay for an appropriate education offered elsewhere. At times, it is necessary to go to court to enforce these rights. Other times, the City offers to settle the case. The process is long, time consuming and extremely expensive for parents. Each year, we fight endlessly to get my son the appropriate education he is entitled to under the law. For the 2015-2016 school year, my son’s father and I chose to accept the settlement offered by the City. The settlement amount did not nearly cover the total cost of his education and certainly did not cover the legal fees we spent pursuing our son’s legal rights. Nevertheless, we chose to settle the case in order to avoid the time consuming and even more expensive process of going to trial. We are 100% confident that we would have prevailed at trial.
We signed a settlement order with the City on May 16, 2016. Despite our attorney’s constant phone calls and emails to City representatives, we have only received partial payment of that settlement. The City still owes us a substantial amount of money under our settlement agreement. This has created an extreme financial hardship for our family, not to mention that it is entirely outside the bounds of what is both legally and morally right.
As I mentioned, we fight to enforce our son’s right to an appropriate public school education every year. That means that we are already pursuing his rights for the 2016-2017 school year. But this year we cannot consider settlement and feel that we must go immediately to trial. Why would we ever settle a case when we not only feel our case is strong and we would prevail at trial but it is also clear that settlement agreements are not being honored by the City?
And, what is worse is we are not alone in this! Our attorneys advise us that a large percentage of their cases are still awaiting payment and my friends who use other attorneys report that they are in the same situation. I am sure that you have other constituents, in addition to my son and I, that are suffering due to the City’s failure to pay its debts to students.
Mayor DeBlasio adopted a policy to “fast-track” settlements for tuition reimbursements. This policy is not being enforced by the City. The Mayor has broken his promise to our kids.
Please help me and my son get the payment that was promised to us. Please also ask your colleagues on the City Council to allow our attorney, Regina Skyer, to address the City Council about this issue.
Send you own letter today! Find your Councilmember’s name and contact information using this online form: http://council.nyc.gov/html/members/members.shtml. You will see a district office address and legislative office address listed for your representative. If you decide to use snail mail, address your letter to the district office.
Please also cc the following legislators:
NYC Council Education Committee Chair Daniel Dromm
250 Broadway, Suite 1826
New York, NY 10007
NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito
250 Broadway, Suite 1856
New York, NY 10007