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Study of Special Education Private Day Program Rates Underway

Budget language included in the 2018 Appropriations Act directed the Office of Children’s Services (OCS) to contract for a study of the current rates paid to providers for special education private day placements funded through the Children’s Services Act. The study is to include a review of the adequacy of current rates as well as recommendations for implementing a rate-setting structure for these services. OCS has contracted with Public Consulting Group, Inc. (PCG) to conduct the study, and held a series of meetings with stakeholders earlier this week to present an overview of the study plan. Local government representatives, including CSA coordinators, senior county administration staff, VACo, and VML, participated in a meeting on October 29.

An interim report is due to the Governor and the “money committee” chairs by December 1, 2018, and PCG’s team of consultants reported to meeting attendees on October 29 that this document will include a review of how rates for similar services are addressed in other states, to include how costs are allocated between state and local governments and school divisions. The second phase of the report, which is due July 1, 2019, will include a study of provider costs in Virginia and a recommended rate-setting methodology. Providers will be asked to provide data on personnel, administrative, and other costs, to include items such as staff salaries and benefits, equipment, training and licensing, and insurance. This data will be used to develop rate options, which will be shared with stakeholders in another series of meetings, and then a final report will be provided to OCS. PCG’s slides from its presentation at the October 29 meeting are available here.

Several CSA coordinators in attendance pointed out that rate-setting alone may not lead to lower expenditures, since length of stay in a program is also a factor in overall spending, and suggested that daily rates may not be indicative of overall cost-effectiveness, if programs that are more costly on a daily basis are able to serve children more effectively and assist them in returning to their local school division more promptly. OCS staff suggested that a parallel effort undertaken this summer to develop outcome measures for private day placements will help in comparing results for programs. Some concern was also expressed that a rate structure established in the future might be a way for the state to limit its participation in CSA by funding services only at the set rate, with any additional costs to be funded by the locality if a provider refused to accept that rate and the services were required by a child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP). VACo has been supportive of exploring potential benefits of a rate-setting structure, and will be closely monitoring the study as it progresses.

VACo Contact: Katie Boyle

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