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Children’s Services Act Workgroup on Special Education Adopts Recommendations

A stakeholder workgroup tasked with examining the use of Children’s Services Act (CSA) funding to support special education needs adopted a set of recommendations at its final meeting on October 14. This workgroup was created by legislation that passed in 2021 and was charged with developing a plan for the possible transfer of CSA private day school and residential placement funding to the Department of Education. The 2021 legislation also directed the group to make recommendations on the use of CSA funding to support students with special educational needs within public schools, to include the use of CSA funds to avoid out-of-school placements, as well as the most effective use of CSA funds to transition students from out-of-school placements back to public schools.

The group adopted the following recommendations at the October 14 meeting:

Transfer funding and oversight responsibility for private special education day school and residential facility placements from the Office of Children’s Services to the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE), effective July 1, 2024. The workgroup vote was divided on this issue, although workgroup members agreed on the importance of preserving sum-sufficiency requirements for this funding. The proposal would require VDOE to implement a plan that would provide funding for services for students with the highest-level needs who are in placements outside of public school in accordance with their Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), ensure that funds are equally accessible to all school divisions, minimize the impact of the new funding structure on localities, and account for how the state and local governments and local educational authorities will ensure funding sufficient to meet all federal and state requirements under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

The preliminary plan proposed by VDOE in the workgroup’s report would provide that local match rates would be determined by the General Assembly and would minimize the fiscal impact on localities. In earlier drafts of the report, the use of CSA match rates would be preserved; however, in a meeting this summer, workgroup members discussed the use of the Local Composite Index, or the development of an entirely new match rate structure, to determine state and local shares of private day and residential placements. At the August workgroup meeting, VACo made public comment about the potential for creating winners and losers among localities if a new funding model were implemented.

Retain funding and administrative responsibility for special education wraparound services within the Office of Children’s Services and local CSA programs (these services support children’s needs that extend beyond the school day and are funded by a capped allocation in the state budget).

Do not allow further use of CSA funds to pay for services within public schools beyond the transitional services that were allowed to be funded through CSA in legislation passed in 2021. However, the workgroup supported enhancing the ability of public schools to serve children with higher-level needs through the creation of a pool of funds within VDOE that would support students in remaining in public schools. VDOE’s preliminary plan envisions these funds being provided to school divisions on a reimbursement model, with a local match based on the Local Composite Index, and that funding would be prioritized for the students with the highest-level needs who are at risk of out-of-public-school placements.

Continue data collection on the CSA-funded transitional services for students returning to public school from private placements. The workgroup had been charged with providing recommendations on the most effective use of these funds, but data on the use of this funding is limited, as these services were only recently allowed to be funded through CSA.

The proposals approved by the workgroup were to be reviewed by the Secretary of Education and the Secretary of Health and Human Resources; a final report is due to the General Assembly by November 1.

VACo Contact: Katie Boyle

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