Organizations Sign Letter To Mayor Demanding More Preschool Seats For Special Needs Students

The shortage existed long before COVID. But advocates say an influx of federal funding could change it. CBS2's Aundrea Cline-Thomas reports.

Video Transcript

- 100 organizations signed a letter to the mayor demanding more preschool seats for special needs students, a shortage that existed long before COVID.

- And now, advocates say an infusion of federal funding could change that. CBS2's Aundrea Cline-Thomas has the story.

AUNDREA CLINE-THOMAS: While most families are grappling with in-person or remote learning, Muhammad Murshed has neither option for his son. The four-year-old, who's also named Muhammad, has developmental delays and is among hundreds of students across the city waiting for a spot in a special education preschool class.

MUHAMMAD MURSHED: His activity, everything is, day by day, getting a little less. Let's say he was speaking before like two or three words, but now he doesn't say anything.

AUNDREA CLINE-THOMAS: Monday, a coalition of 100 organizations, including Advocates for Children, sent a letter to Mayor de Blasio demanding federal funding be used to provide every special needs child access to a preschool class.

BETTY BAEZ MILO: These are families of children who have a legal right to attend a preschool special class program.

AUNDREA CLINE-THOMAS: This comes just weeks after Mayor de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter announced the expansion of the 3-K program for traditional students by more than 16,000 seats.

MARCIA KRAMER: What promise can you make to parents waiting for early interventions?

AUNDREA CLINE-THOMAS: CBS2 political reporter Marcia Kramer asked the mayor about the plan for special education students.

BILL DE BLASIO: We are, right now, working on this issue because we do not ever want to leave kids with special needs behind.

AUNDREA CLINE-THOMAS: But left behind is how so many families feel.

MUHAMMAD MURSHED: No services for him since like two years, he doesn't get. That's why, day by day, it's really hard for us to take care of him.

AUNDREA CLINE-THOMAS: And the Murshed family doesn't know when help will come.

Advocates explain that the greatest need is in the Bronx, especially in lower-income communities. And that's why they say this isn't just about access, it's also about equity.

Aundrea Cline-Thomas, CBS2 News.