School Funding

Specialized schools struggle to retain staff

NEW YORK – Danielle Ruggiero is a teacher-in-training at Eden II, a Staten Island school for children with autism.

“I took over this class over a year ago now,” said Ruggiero, whose class includes students aged 15 to 17. “I just fell in love with it since then. “

What would you like to know

  • Schools like Eden II, which welcomes students with autism, educate children whose needs cannot be met in public schools
  • They are state funded, but they receive less funding than public schools, which leaves them less money to pay staff
  • This means salaries are pale compared to public schools, making it nearly impossible to retain staff, who can earn tens of thousands of dollars more elsewhere.

But once Ruggiero gets her teaching certificate, she, like all teachers in her school, will be able to earn a lot more in a public school.

” I thought about it. People ask me all the time, but I wasn’t really in a rush, because I like it here and I love my job, and I love the children and I love the staff, ”he said. she declared. “But it definitely makes me wonder and I want to keep my options open.”

Ruggiero is not alone – and this is the problem facing Eden II and other schools of its kind. Eden II contracts with the city to provide year round education to children who cannot be served by public schools. The school does not charge tuition fees and students cannot register with them directly; they only serve the children referred there by the city.

Their funding comes from the state, but the tuition fees they charge per student are significantly lower than in public schools, meaning there is less money to spend on staff.

“My teachers, who desperately want to stay here, are called by the [Department of Education] now and [being told], ‘We’ll give you an extra $ 30,000 – and by the way, you don’t have to work for the summer, and if you want to work for the summer, we’ll give you an extra $ 10,000.’ Joanne Gerenser, said the executive director of Eden II. “So it’s not about hitting the DOE or their salaries – they’re worth what they’re paid. But I don’t understand why my professors aren’t worth the same.

For this reason, schools like Eden II are facing a personnel crisis. Many teachers who once focused on these autistic students are taking on new jobs at DOE schools where they are better paid by the city. To compensate for the shortage of teachers, Eden II sometimes had to close face-to-face classes and direct students towards distance learning.

“If we get a COVID case, it impacts the closure of the class. But half the time we’re closing now because we just don’t have staff, ”said Gerenser. “You know, one person is getting sick and two people quit the night before. It is unfair. These families have been through enough, and it’s so confusing for the kids. “

This has certainly been true for Luan Ardolic, who has missed about a week of school this year due to shortages, his father Medin Ardolic said.

“It was like discrimination … against my child. My niece can go to her school the next day. Why can’t mine go to school the next day?” Asked Medin Ardolic.

Yet the state continues to provide more funding to public schools than those that outsource special education. This year, public schools have seen a 7% increase in the tuition rate the state pays them. Schools like Eden II received only 4%. Over the years, annual disparities like this have led to the wide gaps in funding – and therefore, in staff compensation – that exist today.

But legislation passed unanimously by the Assembly and the Senate would help alleviate the funding shortfall these schools are feeling, by tying the annual funding increases for schools like Eden II to the generally larger ones for public schools. .

Gov. Kathy Hochul has yet to sign the legislation, which her office told NY1 remains under review. Ardolic hopes she will sign it.

“My son is no different from anyone else’s child. These teachers are no different from other teachers there, ”he said. “Sign the bill, that’s all I can say. “