Rebecca Harary Meets with Top Officials

Release date: 4/8/2009

Rebecca Harary, Vice President and a founder of Imagine Academy for Autism, was invited by New York State Assemblywoman Rhoda S. Jacobs to join her recently, as US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein announced details about the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and how it will help NYC schools.

Based on its preliminary analysis, NYC estimates that it will receive approximately $950 million, including $525 million in State and Fiscal Stabilization Grants in each of the next two years. The schools are also entitled to receive over $300 million from an expansion of Title I funds for high-needs students and approximately $100 million from the expansion of Individuals with Disabilities Education Act funding and more than $25 million in education technology funds. The Mayor was confident that this aid would make a difficult budget situation tolerable for all schools. Rebecca Harary toured Brooklyn’s Explore Charter School with top Federal, State and NYC officials: Arne Duncan, President Obama’s new Secretary of Education; Rhoda S. Jacobs, NY State Assemblywoman; Mayor Michael Bloomberg; Joel I. Klein, NYC Schools Chancellor; Malcolm A. Smith, NY State Senate Majority Leader; and Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers.

Secretary Duncan stated that we are not just “facing an economic crisis, but an education crisis.” Duncan stressed that we are now being offered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity from Washington to lift the quality of education.

During the question and answer session at the press conference, Rebecca Harary asked US Secretary Arne Duncan how the funding was going to be applied to the schools, specifically for children with learning disabilities, and what new, innovative programs were going to be developed. Secretary Duncan’s response focused on the need to formally train teachers in mainstream schools to identify learning disabilities at an early age, thus paving the road toward early intervention.

This response echoed the recommendation given by Rebecca Harary to Albany officials and to Governor Patterson. As Mrs. Harary has formally testified in state hearings, early intervention has had an astoundingly beneficial impact on the cost of lifelong care for children diagnosed with learning disabilities. According to the London School of Economics, the cost of care can be reduced by two-thirds with early intervention.

After the press conference, Rebecca informed Secretary Duncan in more detail about a program that Imagine Academy for Autism has already initiated to help mainstream teachers identify the early signs of autism. “Educating the Educators” is designed to help preschool and elementary teachers identify the telltale signs of Autism. Because of Imagine’s informative program delivered by their highly trained staff, educators in mainstream schools have already identified several children in our community—ultimately leading to better prognosis via early intervention. Impressed by the Imagine Academy’s efforts, Secretary Duncan requested additional material about Imagine’s “Educating the Educators” program. Secretary Duncan is committed to assisting states through grants that want to try new approaches to help students. This collaborative effort should expand the effectiveness of our community’s education programs and allow federal, state and city government programs to help even more of our children.

Rebecca Harary’s advocacy for individuals with disabilities is crucial to future funding for educational programs that help special needs students. Recognizing the importance of early diagnosis and substantive intervention, the cost of lifelong care can be reduced. Leadership through all sectors, as government synergizes with nonprofit, will hopefully facilitate a positive outcome on a population whose voices need to be heard.