A group of SJC Long Island students traveled to the district office of New York State Sen. Monica Martinez (D, 3rd District) late last month to advocate for increased funding for students with disabilities.
Even with the dramatic increase in both diagnoses and awareness of learning and behavioral disabilities over the past two decades, state funding to support these students has been flat since 1994.
“Over the past few years, the student life office has seen a considerable increase in the number of students requiring support services for a myriad of disabilities,” Rose Mary Howell, Ed.D., vice president of student life at SJC Long Island, said during the April 26 meeting.
In the last round of budget negotiations, the state Assembly included a request for $2 million dollars specifically set aside to support students with disabilities. While far from the $15 million requested by the New York State Education Department earlier this year, the allocation brings some hope for the future.
Seeking to capitalize on this progress and to bring awareness to the existing gap in demand and funding, SJC Long Island students Samantha Rizzo, Andrew Kinsey and Sydney Steuernagel sat down with Sen. Martinez and discussed their experiences at SJC Long Island, and the support they now receive. Martinez was receptive to their message and offered to push for increased support for students with disabilities, not only in higher education but across the whole educational spectrum.
“I appreciated the opportunity to share my views about my education to date and the need for increase support from New York state,” said Andrew Kinsey, a senior accounting major from SJC Long Island. “Being a strong advocate is key to enacting positive change.”