State lawmakers and advocates on Tuesday urged Gov. Kathy Hochul to approve a bill meant to strengthen funding and expand programs in New York that serve children with disabilities. 

The measure is meant to provide fair and equitable funding to the programs and link it to aid given to public schools in the state. 

The bill was approved earlier this year with unanimous votes in the state Assembly and state Senate. On Tuesday, Democratic Sens. John Mannion of Syracuse and Andrew Gounardes of Brooklyn rallied with advocates from programs that serve kids with disabilities calling on Hochul to sign the measure. 

“There is a crisis at our 4410 and 853 schools that serve special needs children," Gounardes said. "Decades of disinvestment have left these schools underfunded and teachers underpaid and desperate to find new jobs. Teachers are leaving and students are left without support. We now have a chance to provide resources for those who need it the most.  The bill for tuition parity passed unanimously in both the Assembly and the Senate, it is imperative that Governor Hochul signs this bill.”

Advocates point to the programs and schools that provide services to children with disabilities receiving less aid than local school districts. That has led to special education teachers with five years of experience earning less than $30,000 as someone with comparable experience working in a public school, making recruitment a challenge, lawmakers said. 

“We, as a society, have a responsibility to do the right thing," said Matt Sturiale, the president and CEO of Birch Family Services. "Children with disabilities should have access to an equitable, inclusive, and quality education. When local districts cannot support children with special needs, they look to the 4410, 853, and Special Act schools to be the solution."