Some teacher aides who are paid by the New York City Department of Education say their paychecks have been frozen for months.
The I-Team has learned a group of educators working under the city’s Special Education Teacher Support Service program, or SETSS, have not been paid for hours they billed as far back as September.
“I definitely feel extremely taken advantage of, and I feel I’m going through a difficult time financially for no reason,” said Deena Rosenbluth, who has worked as a special education aide for eight years.
Rosenbluth teaches algebra at a private religious school in Brooklyn, but the city is financially responsible for the education sessions she spends with special needs students. Under state and federal law, even private school students are entitled to public funds associated with special education services.
The Department of Education did not immediately explain why paychecks were delayed.
The DOE also declined to quantify how many special education teacher aides have been affected. Spokesman Marcus Liem said in a statement that the agency is "strictly applying existing policies and controls to ensure that billings are appropriate.
"The DOE works to maintain a process by which payments are made to SETTS providers within six weeks of receipt of all proper documentation," he said. Liem added that there are occasional delays in payments when additional documentation is needed, but the DOE is working to ensure that aides receive proper payment and that "any delayed invoices are prioritized."
Thus far, Deena Rosenbluth has gone without her SETSS paycheck for four and a half months.
After the I-Team asked, Liem said Rosenbluth’s invoices would be processed in a matter of days. Still, she is concerned many of her fellow educators may have to wait longer.
“Two of my colleagues told me they had to borrow money to pay their mortgages. The next one told me she is afraid her electricity is about to be shut off.”
During a phone call with the New York City Comptroller’s Office Community Action Center, Rosenbluth said she was told as many as 1,400 special education aides may have been inconvenienced by delayed paychecks.
The Department of Education has not confirmed that number.
Malky Berkowitz, a reading specialist who works as a special education aide, said the financial burden of going without pay for months has been enormous.
“Most people I know have had to borrow money,” Berkowitz said. “It is our main income.”