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Budget amendments propose major changes to Children’s Services Act

As discussed at County Government Day, language in both chambers’ budgets proposes changes to funding for private educational day placements for children with disabilities receiving services through the Children’s Services Act (CSA). Language in the House budget would require that the Office of Children’s Services (OCS), the Department of Education (VDOE), the Department of Social Services (VDSS), and the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) submit an implementation plan for the transfer of funding for children receiving certain special education services through CSA from CSA to VDOE. Stakeholder input is to be solicited in order to ensure that legal requirements would continue to be met.

The Senate language is broader and requires that OCS, in collaboration with VDOE, convene a workgroup to assess what would be required to implement various options dealing with the growth of private day placements. One option to be considered by the workgroup is the transfer of private day placement funding to VDOE, but the workgroup is also to consider identification of resources needed to support children in a less restrictive environment than private day settings, and the collection of data on the efficacy of private day placements.

The Senate language, since it takes a more deliberate approach, is preferable. VACo is advocating that the General Assembly proceed with caution in this area. Special education has been part of CSA since its inception, and VACo would oppose efforts by the state to cap its contribution to the program. The risk to localities is that if funding is moved out of CSA and reallocated under a new formula through VDOE, it is likely that only a fixed amount will be transferred, rather than the current sum-sufficient allocation; if costs to serve children increased, the state’s contribution would be limited and localities could then be obligated to make up the difference.

VACo will be encouraging budget conferees to adopt a careful approach that is closer to the Senate position, and will advocate for local participation in any workgroups that examine this issue.

VACo Members – Share your thoughts on FlagPoll.

VACo Contact: Katie Boyle

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