Children’s Services Act legislation fails in House Appropriations; JLARC to take up issue later this year

February 19, 2019

The two bills related to private special education day placements remaining under consideration after “crossover” failed to survive hearings in subcommittees of House Appropriations last week.  SB 1104 (Peake), as passed by the Senate, would have allowed the current, capped allocation for special education “wraparound” services to be used for services within the public school setting.  Currently, based on the Virginia Department of Education’s interpretation of federal law, these funds may be used only for services provided before or after school; some CSA coordinators have expressed interest in making better use of the funds, which have historically been under-utilized.  VACo testified in favor of the bill when it was heard in the Health and Human Resources Subcommittee, expressing support for mechanisms to enhance local school divisions’ capacity to serve children with higher-level needs.

VACo offered similar support for SB 1576 (Suetterlein) when it was heard in the Elementary and Secondary Education Subcommittee.  The bill would have authorized the creation of pilot programs in several local school divisions to determine the resources needed to transition students from private day placements to the public school setting.  It also required reporting on the results of the pilot programs.  The Senate budget includes some funding to support this effort, but the subcommittee expressed concern as to whether that funding was adequate to the task.

Both bills were passed by indefinitely after members expressed a preference for the issues to be discussed in the context of the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission’s (JLARC) upcoming study of special education in Virginia, which is to include the effectiveness of the process by which private day placements are made and the performance of programs and services for children with special needs.  JLARC Director Hal Greer, in response to questions by members of the Health and Human Resources Subcommittee, explained that the study is expected to begin in the fall of 2019.  He also told the subcommittee that the new health and human resources oversight unit at JLARC has been requested to undertake a general study of CSA.

VACo will be communicating with JLARC to ensure that particular attention is paid during the two studies to the issue of how schools’ ability to meet children’s needs can be bolstered.

VACo Contacts: Katie Boyle and Jeremy Bennett

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