NY law expands oversight of preschool special ed
ALBANY— New York will increase oversight of special education programs for preschoolers with disabilities to audit all contract providers statewide, after limited audits found widespread fraud and abuse in several programs.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the new law authorizing the state comptroller to audit all of the independently run programs at least once in the next five years. The measure also establishes new reporting requirements for committees that place children in programs and for providers, while authorizing a study of reimbursement changes.
"About 75,000 students are covered by it, and we found too many situations of abuse all across the state ... with providers literally ripping off the dollars that are dedicated for special needs children," Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said Thursday. He pushed for the law.
"We want to see these children that need the services get those services," DiNapoli said. "We don't want to see the providers enrich themselves at the expense of the kids."
Legislative sponsors cited limited audits showing absentee directors, redundant costs and potential conflicts of interest where evaluators direct children into their own programs.
New York has more than 300 special education providers in the $1.4 billion program.
A comptroller's review of state Education Department's fiscal oversight of the programs last year showed the oversight was limited to desk reviews of self-reported information, which was often filed late and rife with error.
In 15 reviews of private providers, state auditors found $13.2 million in disallowed billings out of $139.8 million paid. Six cases were referred to law enforcement after auditors found funds being used to hire relatives at excessive salaries and pay for things like vacation homes and home entertainment.