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Children’s Services Act Workgroup on Special Education Beginning to Formulate Recommendations

A stakeholder workgroup charged with examining the use of Children’s Services Act (CSA) funding to support special education needs, to include housing the funding and oversight of private special education placements at the Department of Education, is beginning to develop recommendations.  The workgroup was created by 2021 legislation that was introduced in response to a study of the Children’s Services Act by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission that was released in fall 2020.  Among other changes, the legislation authorized the use of CSA pool funds for up to 12 months of transitional services within the public school setting for youth who were previously served in private school.  In order to look more extensively at the issue of CSA funding for private special education placements, the legislation directed the Secretary of Education and the Secretary of Health and Human Resources to convene a workgroup to develop a detailed plan for the transfer of CSA private day school and residential placement funding to the Department of Education, make recommendations on the use of CSA funds for services within public schools to avoid out-of-school placements, and make recommendations on the most effective use of CSA funds to transition students from out-of-school placements back to public school, among other duties.

The workgroup met several times in the summer and fall of 2021, and in January and March of 2022, in addition to its April 19 meeting.  Key issues under discussion in the workgroup include the following:

  • Plan for the transfer of funding and oversight responsibility to the Department of Education: Several workgroup members have expressed concerns about developing a plan with an assumption that the funding will be transferred, preferring instead to evaluate the merits of such a transfer.  Other workgroup members have expressed reluctance to approve the development of a plan in concept and have requested to review details of a draft that would be drafted by the Department of Education.
  • Sum-sufficiency: Workgroup members have expressed broad support for retaining sum-sufficiency requirements for private placements, regardless of whether the state funding is administered by the Department of Education or remains with the Office of Children’s Services.
  • State and local cost-sharing: At one of the workgroup’s first meetings, Scott Reiner, Executive Director of the Office of Children’s Services, provided information comparing current expenditures by locality for CSA-funded special education services using local CSA match rates with projected local expenditures if costs for those services were shared via the Local Composite Index.  Local representatives have expressed serious reservations about the potential disruptions involved in moving to a different funding structure.
  • Expansion of the use of CSA funding within public schools: Information provided to the workgroup indicated that since passage of the 2021 legislation enabling use of CSA funds for certain transitional services in public schools, only a handful of students have made use of these funds.  Workgroup members have expressed interest in collecting more data about the use of the limited transitional funds over time before expanding use of CSA funding in public schools.

The workgroup’s next meeting is scheduled for May 19.

VACo Contact:  Katie Boyle

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