Feb 21

New York State’s “4201” Schools at RISK!

In past couple weeks, I’ve spent so much of my time, energy, & effort to fight against our Governor Andrew Cuomo’s latest budget proposal. In his proposal, he’s asking us to abandon 193 years old law and relinquish sanction in schools of Deaf, Blind, and Physically Handicapped over to local school districts.

More information can be found at http://www.deafnyaction.org/

Below is a sample of template letter I’ve put down together and thought you all would want to copy (edit) before sending it to Governor Cuomo and your assembly members along with your state Senators.  Not only limited to these people, but as well to Senator Kristen Gillibrand and Senator Chuck Schumer too. (Practically, everyone you can think of.)


Sean’s template about 4201 school issue

[Template begins…]

Senator David Carlucci
District Office
95 South Middletown Road
Nanuet, NY 10954
United States

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Dear Senator Carlucci:

I applaud Governor Cuomo’s efforts to balance the state budget and restore New York’s reputation as the finest state in the nation.  However, his proposal regarding 4201 schools (Schools for the Deaf, Blind, and Physically Handicapped in New York State) is ill-advised and will have serious, far-reaching consequences that are not optimal.

As a Deaf father of a Deaf son, I strongly oppose Governor Cuomo’s proposal. My son will enroll at the New York School for the Deaf, or as it is more commonly known, Fanwood.  Governor Cuomo’s proposal will deny my son an education that provides full, complete access.

Governor Cuomo’s proposal is misguided because he is asking the state to undo its 193-year commitment to providing financial support to 11 crucial schools serving Deaf, Blind, and physically disabled people across the state. Although it may not be intentional, the proposed plan will require school districts to bear the costs of paying tuition and support services for Deaf students within their districts.  As is true in many other states, New York’s local school districts are already struggling with budgetary issues. With this proposal, school districts may, for financial reasons, opt to retain Deaf students within the district instead of allowing Deaf students to attend a state Deaf school.

The people of New York decided to ratify this law, New York State Education Law, Article 85, Section (§4201), to provide children who were Deaf, Blind or disabled with an appropriate learning environment. Eight out of the eleven schools for Deaf students provide inclusive single language instruction in American Sign Language, and have been the appropriate learning environments for thousands of Deaf students. These schools are equipped, and qualified, to provide appropriate, accessible environments that most, if not all, school districts cannot provide within their own schools.


  • The proposed budget claims $84 million in savings.  In reality, there will be no savings. Rather, the costs will shift from the state to local school districts that are already greatly burdened by financial challenges.
  • To cause the closure of a state school for Deaf students simply to relinquish the responsibilities to local school districts is not a cost-saving measure. The costs to adequately serve each Deaf and hard of hearing child in the child’s respective school district far exceed the costs of sending that same child to a school for the Deaf.
  • Schools for the Deaf are a centralized resource of qualified teachers and staff with the necessary, and fundamental, skills to communicate effectively with Deaf and hard of hearing children. The vast majority of school districts do not have any or adequate staff knowledgeable about educating, or communicating with Deaf and hard of hearing children. Many also do not have anywhere near the fluency in ASL and other communication options that staff at Deaf schools do.
  • The closure of any school for Deaf students due to a lack of enrollment as a result of local school districts refusing to send Deaf students to state schools will force Deaf and hard of hearing students to be denied full access to the educational curriculum and to peers with whom they can communicate.  The lack of direct access to the educational curriculum will, as shown in history repeatedly, set Deaf and hard of hearing students terribly behind their hearing peers. Additionally, forcing Deaf students to attend local schools instead of state schools will guarantee that Deaf children are isolated in school without teachers and peers who can directly communicate with them.
  • To cut the state funding to each school for the Deaf eliminates a continuum option that is federally mandated under the IDEA. This option is often the only educational placement appropriate for many Deaf and hard of hearing children in each state. Litigation against the school districts for failure to provide free appropriate public education under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act would wipe out any perceived savings.
  • Closure is not the only threat. Cuts in funding to schools for the Deaf require the schools to make decisions that severely compromise the students’ educational needs.
  • Deaf and hard of hearing children need to be assessed by qualified educational staff with experience and training in specific assessment tools and techniques required for Deaf and hard of hearing students as mandated by law.  Most school districts do not have staff qualified or fluent in ASL to assess Deaf and hard of hearing students.
  • School districts are already facing financial cutbacks, yet are expected to provide resources to serve Deaf and hard of hearing students in their districts. Such financial pressures will lead to inappropriate and lacking educational services for Deaf and hard of hearing children.
  • The proposal will result in the loss of a significant number of jobs across the state.

I am asking you for your support in persuading Governor Cuomo to withdraw his proposal on New York State Education Law, Article 85, Section (§4201) before March 2nd. As a Deaf father who attended a state school for Deaf students, I know firsthand the importance and need for a state school. I want the same opportunities I received to be given to my son, and thousands of other Deaf children in New York.



Sean Gerlis
Board Member, National Association of the Deaf
West Nyack, NY
[personal e-mail address]
[phone number]


  1. Karen Mayes

    Thumbs up!

  2. Jean Boutcher

    Excellent letter! Poet Willard Madsen says in one of his poems:

    You have to be deaf to understand the deaf.

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