By Erica Fitzgerald, Esq., & Stacy M. Sadove, Esq., Littman Krooks LLP
Most students with disabilities require related services to make progress towards their educational goals. A student’s Individualized Education Program (“IEP”) documents the related services that the student’s IEP team recommends. The School District must ensure that the student receives the full mandate of services. Frequently, and particularly within the New York City Department of Education, the School District is unable to fulfill a student’s full mandate.
In these situations, the School District issues a Related Service Authorization Form or “RSA” which places the burden on parents to locate an outside provider to provide the student’s mandated related services at the School District’s contract rate. While the RSA Voucher program does work for some students, many parents have found it difficult to utilize an RSA. One reason that prevents parents from utilizing RSA Vouchers is that many providers will not accept the lower contract rate offered by School Districts as payment for the services rendered. Those providers that do accept the School District contract rates frequently do not have availability in their schedule to accept additional students. Other providers are simply located too far from the student’s home or school to feasibly provide services on a regular basis. Recently, the Public Advocate for New York City released an investigative report highlighting the difficulties parents often face when attempting to utilize RSAs. For example, between 66% and 91% of RSAs issued in Bronx County went unused during the 2015-2016 school year.
In many of our cases, we find that parents are struggling to utilize RSAs from their School District. The inability to use these RSAs results in the child’s failure to receive appropriate services and ultimately a failure to make meaningful progress towards his or her educational goals. For this reason we frequently seek compensatory related services at an enhanced rate, rather than at a School District’s contract rate, as relief for the failure to provide a student with a free appropriate public education. If awarded, an enhanced rate allows the parent more flexibility in choosing a related service provider. If you suspect your child is not receiving his or her full mandate of related services, or if you are struggling to utilize a previously issued RSA from your School District, you should reach out to a special education attorney to assist you in obtaining the necessary and appropriate services for your child.
For more information regarding the investigation published by The Public Advocate for the City of New York you can visit: http://pubadvocate.nyc.gov/sites/advocate.nyc.gov/files/denial_of_service_report_7717_1.pdf