The Joint Subcommittee for Health and Human Resources Oversight received briefings on November 29 on the issue of private special education day placements funded through the Children’s Services Act (CSA). This meeting was a continuation of discussions on this topic that have been underway for the last several years; most recently, staff to the House Appropriations and Senate Finance Committees were tasked by budget language with examining options to “better manage the quality and costs” of private day educational placements. Decisions about these placements are made by Individualized Education Program (IEP) teams in local school divisions, and the costs, which are shared by the state and localities on a sum-sufficient basis, have risen substantially in recent years.
House Appropriations and Senate Finance staff began research on the topic this summer, including conducting interviews with stakeholders, in advance of a November 1 deadline to report their findings. Due to the complexity of the issue, staff has requested additional time to work on a number of outstanding questions identified during their preliminary research, and will continue the study in 2018.
Several representatives of interested parties were invited to offer brief testimony to the Joint Subcommittee; Mary Biggs, VACo’s Immediate Past President and a member of the State Executive Council for CSA, provided a perspective from local governments and suggested several avenues for research in the months ahead. She reminded the Joint Subcommittee about localities’ significant contributions to CSA and to public education in general, noting that local governments share the concern about rapidly increasing costs for private placements. She reiterated VACo’s opposition to any changes to the structure of CSA that would limit the state’s participation.
She encouraged the development of metrics to determine what progress children in private day placements are making, both in academics and in managing challenging behaviors. Some of these metrics, particularly regarding behavior, could potentially be included as goals in the IEP process so that students, parents, and providers all know what benchmarks need to be met in order to transition back to the local school division. She also recommended that the state explore assisting localities with the contracting process, so as to help localities negotiate more favorable rates. She highlighted the potential for localities to make better use of CSA wrap-around funds, which could potentially assist in maintaining children in their local school divisions, if barriers to use of those funds were addressed. Lastly, she discussed the need for changes in the way the state supports local efforts to serve children with higher-level needs within local school divisions, whether through allowing CSA funds to be used within the schools in a targeted fashion or through creative approaches to regional collaboration.
The Joint Subcommittee also received testimony from representatives of private providers, CSA coordinators, special education administrators, and parents. VACo will continue its active engagement on this topic in 2018.
VACo Contact: Katie Boyle