On January 27, 2016, Bill Wolff, the executive director of Albany’s LaSalle School and the President of the NYS Coalition of 853 Schools testified to the NYS Legislature’s Joint Committees on Education Funding for increased funding for 853 Schools. Wolff did not read from his testimony. Rather he focused on a few statements and responded to questions afterward. What follows are his statements to the joint committee members:
[The 853 Schools] appreciate the increasing awareness for our schools among members of the legislature, and your growing interest in understanding the valuable services we offer and the challenges we face. In the last few years this has resulted in critically important consideration for growth in our funding that is in line with state supported school aid, has assured our eligibility for important initiatives like the Smart Schools Bond Act and more.
In the complete testimony, you will see that we are seeking your support to build on this recent progress, first by assisting our schools in the recruitment, retention and professional development of the highly qualified and certified teachers we employ. You will see that we are seeking continuation of the productive work underway with the State Education Department and the Division of the Budget with respect to reform of the tuition methodology that funds all 853 programs. And you will see that we are seeking a means to address growing deficiencies in the facilities we operate, knowing that a strategic approach to solving these issues today will prove to be beneficial in the long run.
And additionally, in the days ahead you will hear of our interest to secure resolution of the serious consequences for our programs that too often develop at the points where the policies and regulations of one monitoring state agency intersect, or it might be better to say collide, with those of another state agency also charged with similar responsibilities involving the children served in our programs. When we are all stuck, we need your help to unravel these circumstances so our programs are not unnecessarily placed at risk and the overall needs of children we care for remain our shared priority.
On the whole, you will see that we are seeking investments by government and opportunities to partner in order to insure that the children we serve benefit from our states long standing commitment to education for its youngest citizens.
The 853 Schools throughout the state, including the 44 or so that are members of the 853 Coalition, serve about 15,000 school age children and play a significant role in New York’s priority of offering all of our children the opportunity to develop intellectually, socially and emotionally.
When we make these investments in child and family well-being, of which education is an absolutely essential component, we are in fact making an investment in the future prosperity of our communities.
Schools l ike mine and others in the 853 Coalition, work with seriously traumatized children. Sometimes we are described as their last chance or, their only hope. What I know is how seriously wounded – emotionally, intellectually and very often physically, the young people are that I see every day.
Emerging science tells us that the future for many children can be seriously undermined when prolonged, toxic stress damages the early architecture of the brain. For a child, the stress can come from a variety of sources – including physical abuse, sexual abuse, fear of violence, neglect due to caregiver substance abuse, and more. We know that the damage inflicted by Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACEs, can weaken the foundation of the neurological system. We know that ACEs can also seriously impair how the brain develops during adolescence. The Centers for Disease Control recently recognized ACEs as a public health concern, citing correlations to low rates of school completion, lack of adult employability and sustained household poverty.
When we invest in family well-being, which for children is anchored by education and includes such things as early childhood development and building resiliency in adolescents, we help to insure that a child’s neurological foundation will be more durable. Such durability contributes to the long term opportunities a child has to fully participate in and contribute to the prosperity of his or her community.
Across New York, 853 programs are among those on the leading edge of employing brain science to inform practice. For the children and families most at risk for long term complications due to ACEs and toxic stress, we are helpin them build resiliency, learn relevant skills, benefit from rigorous curriculum and instruction, and guide them toward stability so they may open the door to an independent and more prosperous life. This is what 853 Schools do. And as a result of our continuing efforts and wise investments, it is what we all, together, do for our states most vulnerable children.
Thank you very much for the opportunity to speak today.
LaSalle School is a leader in programs and services for youth and families in crisis offering a variety of programs designed to meet their needs including specialized residential placement, day service education, and alternative to detention services. The Counseling Center at LaSalle is an OMH and OASAS licensed outpatient behavioral health clinic located at LaSalle School, and currently implementing ACE treatment practices with youth and families. LaSalle is accredited by the Council on Accreditation (COA), and affiliated with the Council of Family and Child Caring Agencies (COFCCA), and the national Alliance for Strong Families and Communities. LaSalle is a member of The New York State Coalition of 853 Schools.