VACo has historically supported efforts to enhance the capacity of local school divisions to serve children with higher-level needs within the local school division when possible, recognizing that private day placements may be the best option for some students.
VACo supports several helpful bills that allow access to state pool funds provided through the Children’s Services Act (CSA) for services delivered within public schools. VACo also supports other bills directing pilot projects to be undertaken to determine what resources may be needed within the public school setting to support children who may otherwise receive services in private placements.
HB 1619 (Thomas) seeks to allow CSA funding to be used for children transitioning from private placements to a Stafford County public school special education program, when the public program is able to meet the students’ needs. Currently, under the Virginia Department of Education’s 2010 interpretation of federal law, CSA funds cannot be used for services within public schools during the school day (but may be used for “wraparound” services that may help students with special needs remain in the community). The bill was heard in a subcommittee of the House Education Committee on January 14 and recommended to be reported by the full committee and referred to House Appropriations. SB 1104 (Peake) takes a broader approach to the issue, providing that CSA funds may be used to pay for services within public schools. The bill has been referred to Senate Finance.
HB 2408 (Adams, L.R.) and SB 1264 (Vogel) direct the Department of Education to work with two school divisions on pilot projects to study the feasibility of transitioning students in the school districts who are receiving special education in private school settings to an appropriate public school setting, including what resources would be needed to support each student. The Department would also be tasked to recommend a process for redirecting funds, including CSA funds, to the school division to support the resources needed to meet the students’ needs within the local division. HB 2408 has been referred to the House Education Committee, while SB 1264 has been sent to the Senate Rules Committee. SB 1576 (Suetterlein), a similar bill, requires pilots to be conducted for up to four years in two to eight local school divisions, and requires reporting to the Governor and relevant legislative standing committees on the outcomes for children enrolled in the pilot projects. The bill has been referred to the Senate Education and Health Committee.