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Several Children’s Services Act bills under consideration

Several bills have been introduced to provide additional flexibility in the use of Children’s Services Act (CSA) funding to support youths with high-level needs in the public school setting.  HB 49 (McNamara) and SB 128 (Suetterlein) are similar bills that would direct the Department of Education to develop pilot programs in two to eight local school divisions to identify the resources needed to support students who are currently educated in private schools pursuant to an Individualized Education Program if those students were to be served in the public school environment instead, to include making recommendations for redirecting federal, state, and local funds, including CSA funds, to provide the appropriate services and supports.  The pilot projects would last up to four years and reports would be required at the two- and four-year marks on the programs’ successes and challenges encountered.  HB 762 (Cole) and SB 135 (Stuart) apply to Planning District 16 and would allow CSA funds to support the services for children who transfer from a private special education day placement to a public school special education program, when that public program is able to provide comparable services.

SB 190 (Peake) would provide that services in the public school setting could be funded through CSA funds.  VACo spoke in support of the bill when it was heard on January 10 and narrowly reported from the Senate Rehabilitation and Social Services Committee and referred to the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee.  Last year, a similar bill was considered by the Senate Finance Committee, which reported a version specifying that the use of CSA funds was allowed for specific wrap-around services that support students’ ability to remain in the public school setting. That version passed the Senate but failed in the House Appropriations Committee.

Some members of the Senate Rehabilitation and Social Services Committee expressed reluctance to move forward with a broad change to the CSA funding structure while the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) is undertaking both a study of special education overall and a study of CSA.  VACo sent a letter to JLARC last year encouraging that the specific issue of how school divisions can best be supported to serve children with high-level needs be an area of focus in JLARC’s studies.

VACo Contact:  Katie Boyle

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