There’s nothing more heartbreaking for parents than learning that their child has a serious illness. Long-term medical treatment, which often includes countless visits to the doctor, can turn a child’s life upside down and get in the way of them being a kid. Luckily, with today’s technology we have the means to connect chronically ill children and those undergoing medical treatments with their classrooms.
Nothing should stand in the way of a child getting a proper education. That’s why I introduced legislation to create the Virtual Inclusion Plan (VIP) to fund technology that allows hospitalized and chronically ill kids to still get a classroom-based education (A.8748). My bill would provide grant funding for public school districts in New York to purchase technology that allows students to participate in classroom lessons and activities remotely when their medical condition keeps them from being physically present.
Currently, school districts use a combination of tutors and homework packets to meet the education needs of children dealing with long-term hospitalizations or ongoing medical treatment. Unfortunately, the amount of schooling these children receive dramatically decreases as a result, often amounting to less than three hours per week compared to the 30 hours they’d receive if they were in school or had access to the VIP program. In the long run, investments in virtual inclusion technology can also save the cost associated with out-of-classroom tutors.
Part of the inspiration for my push to bring the VIP program to New York comes from 6-year-old Chloe Burian, whose love of attending school and spending time with her classmates was sidetracked when she was diagnosed with Marfan Syndrome — a rare connective tissue disorder — at the age of 4. The disease affects the connective tissue in her eyes, teeth, muscles, spine, bones and heart, and she’s had five surgeries in the last two years.
For Chloe, one of the toughest parts of her illness has been the inability to go to school and see her friends. The VIP program would give Chloe the classroom experience that she wants and deserves, even if she can’t be there in person. Being able to receive a proper education and interact with her friends at school would help give kids like Chloe a sense of normalcy and a better education.
Funding for the VIP program would be made available to the 37 BOCES facilities with centralized technology connected to multiple school districts in each region, as well as the school districts in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Yonkers and New York City that are not part of the BOCES system. To qualify for state grants, schools would work with the State Education Department to determine the best VIP program for each district depending on the existing technology infrastructure along with the needs of the students.
Serious illness and long-term medical treatment bring challenges and obstacles, especially for kids. No child should be robbed of a proper education and the opportunity to engage with their friends and classmates. The VIP program can provide a well-rounded education as well as much-needed peer interaction during such a trying time.
During this upcoming legislative session, myself and Sen. David J. Valesky will be pushing to make the VIP program a reality in New York. It is my mission to continue to look out for ways to turn constituent issues and concerns into tangible solutions, especially as it relates to providing the tools and resources necessary for children in Central New York to get ahead.
As always, if you have any questions or concerns about this or any other community issue, please don’t hesitate to contact me at StirpeA@nyassembly.gov or by calling (315) 452-1115.
Dec 13, 2017
Dec 13, 2017