The Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission released its long-awaited report on the Children’s Services Act in November, offering a series of recommendations on ways to improve program administration, in particular the administration of private special education day placements. (VACo provided an overview of the report’s recommendations in County Connections.)
Several bills and numerous budget amendments have been introduced to implement recommendations from the JLARC report. SB 1313 (Mason) was heard on January 14, alongside related legislation SB 1099 (Stuart), SB 1114 (Peake), and SB 1133 (Suetterlein). SB 1313 and its House companion, HB 2117 (VanValkenburg), are expected to be the legislative vehicles for provisions allowing more flexibility in the use of Children’s Services Act funds to serve children in public schools. As introduced, the bills would authorize the use of CSA funds for time-limited transitional services for children returning to public school from a private day placement; these services could be provided by private providers under contract with the school division. The bills also incorporate additional recommendations from the JLARC report in restricting CSA special education funds to programs licensed by the Department of Education and directing the convening of a workgroup to develop a plan to transfer private special education day placement funding to the Department of Education. VACo and advocacy partners have requested the incorporation of amendments to clarify the duration and nature of transition services, as well as to add additional elements for consideration by the workgroup, such as the outcomes of public programs currently serving children with high-level needs.
HB 2212 (Plum) adds to the statutorily-required list of duties of the Director of the Office of Children’s Services a directive to provide for effective program implementation by localities.
HB 2289 (Austin) authorizes the use of CSA funds for transitional services for children returning from a private day placement and for services for any child whose Individualized Education Program (IEP) team has determined that specialized services could prevent a more restrictive out-of-school placement, as long as these services are estimated to cost more than three times the average annual rate of public school education for a student who does not require the specialized services.
Several House budget amendments would implement additional recommendations (Senate budget amendments are expected to be posted later this week):
- Item 138 #1h (Plum) – directs the Department of Education to develop a plan for administration of CSA funds for students with disabilities, including use of these funds to provide services in public schools
- Item 138 #2h (Plum) – directs the Department of Education to report on certain aspects of private day school staffing and accreditation
- Item 138 #3h (Plum) – directs the Board of Education to promulgate regulations regarding seclusion and restraint in private day schools
- Item 293 #1h (Plum) – requires local CSA programs to serve children in the non-mandated eligibility category
- Item 293 #2h (Plum) – directs the Office of Children’s Services to submit a plan to modify its staffing and operations to enhance its oversight of local CSA programs
- Item 293 #3h (Plum) – directs the Office of Children’s Services to work with the Department of General Services and the Office of the Attorney General to develop statewide contracts to be made available to local programs where beneficial and feasible. VACo has historically supported this concept.
- Item 293 #5h (Plum) – bars receipt of CSA funding by private day schools unless they are licensed by the Virginia Department of Education
VACo Contact: Katie Boyle