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Advocates Sign Letter To Mayor De Blasio Demanding More Preschool Seats For Special Needs Students

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- One hundred organizations signed a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio demanding more preschool seats for special needs students.

The shortage existed long before the pandemic. But, as CBS2's Aundrea Cline-Thomas reported, advocates now say an infusion of federal funding could change that.

While most families are grappling with in-person or remote learning, Muhammad Murshed has neither option for his son.

Murshed's four-year-old son, who is also named Muhammad, has developmental delays and is among hundreds of students across the city waiting for a spot in a special education preschool class.

"His activity, everything is day by day, getting a little less," said Murshed. "Let's say he was speaking before like two or three words, but now he doesn't say anything."

Monday, a coalition of 100 organizations, including Advocates for Children, sent a letter to the mayor demanding federal funding be used to provide every special needs child access to a preschool class.

"These are families of children who have a legal right to attend a preschool special class program," said Betty Baez Milo of Advocates for Children.

It comes just weeks after de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter announced the expansion of the 3-K program for traditional students by more than 16,000 seats.

CBS2 political reporter Marcia Kramer asked the mayor about the plan for special education students.

"We are, right now, working on this issue because we do not ever want to leave kids with special needs behind," de Blasio said.

But so many families do feel left behind.

"No services for him since like two years," Murshed said. "That's why, day by day, it's really hard for us to take care of him."

The Murshed family doesn't know when help will come.

The most significant needs are in the Bronx, especially in low-income communities. Advocates say it's not just about access, it's also about equity.

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