August 29, 2023
Preschoolers with disabilities in New York City and throughout the state are not receiving the services they need, in large part because of the shortage of certified early childhood special education teachers.
An audit conducted in 2023 by State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli found that 51% of children under the age of three in New York who were eligible for early intervention services did not receive all of the therapies to which they were entitled.
And according to Department of Education data reported by Spectrum News NY1 in June 2023, nearly 10,000 New York City preschoolers with disabilities did not receive services in 2022.
To address the shortage of childhood special education (ECSE) teachers and develop much-needed ECSE associate degree programs, specializations and courses, the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education has awarded Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC/CUNY) a two-year, $200,000 grant to lead a partnership with Brooklyn College, Bronx Community College, Hostos Community College, Kingsborough Community College and LaGuardia Community College, as well as with the Kennedy Children’s Center, a community-based, early childhood special education program with more than 65 years of experience serving children with special needs and providing vital services for their families.
In addition to creating ECSE programs and courses, the partnering CUNY colleges and Kennedy Children’s Center will develop career pathways to ECSE teacher certification for teacher assistants and paraprofessionals currently working in the field.
The partners will also create ECSE career pathways for underrepresented associate degree students.
The new ECSE associate degree programs will articulate with the Bachelor of Arts in ECSE program at Brooklyn College. The grant period starts October 1. BMCC Teacher Education Professor Jennifer Longley will serve as the principle investigator (PI) for the grant, leading the partnership with two three co-PIs: BMCC Early Childhood Education (ECE) Program Coordinator Jennifer Gilken, Brooklyn College Early Childhood Education/Art Education Department Chairperson and Associate Professor Jacqueline Shannon, and Jeanne Alter, Executive Director of the Kennedy Children’s Center.
“The Kennedy Children’s Center is proud to offer our expertise to CUNY as the non-profit partner in the development of ECSE associate degree programs and career development pipelines for aspiring New York City educators,” says Alter. “CUNY has been a critical partner in our Grow Your Own program, and we are excited to work closely together to help establish strong, evidence-based ECSE programs at the community college level.”
“Together, the CUNY partners and Kennedy Children’s Center will create a community of practice, in which we engage in professional development together around this area,” says Professor Longley.
She explains that early intervention is critical for children with disabilities, whether physical, sensory, cognitive or emotional.
“Given individualized supports, all children can thrive in the least restrictive environment possible,” she says. “Early childhood teacher educators in CUNY recognize the importance of this work and want to be a part of it.”
The creation of an early childhood special education associate degree program at BMCC relates to the college’s Strategic Goal 6: Strengthen BMCC’s role in a thriving NYC and as a leading community college nationally.
U.S. Department of Education awards BMCC a two-year, $200,000 grant to lead an Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) partnership with Brooklyn College, Bronx Community College, Hostos Community College, Kingsborough Community College and LaGuardia Community College
Partnership also includes the Kennedy Children’s Center, a community-based, early childhood special education program
Together, they will develop ECSE courses, specializations and associate degree programs, to increase number of ECSE certified teachers in the field