Budget Committee to Act on Special Needs Vouchers/Open Enrollment on Sept. 5

A potentially significant change to the way amounts transferred for the open enrollment of special education pupils and the aid deduction for special needs voucher pupils are calculated has been proposed and is scheduled for discussion and a possible vote by the JFC next Tuesday (Sept. 5).

We had previously shared language with you that was included in the Assembly GOP Education Package released in June.  We assume the changes allegedly being sought are similar in nature:
Special Needs Scholarship Program (Vouchers)

  • Change the payment amount for a pupil attending a private school under the Special Needs Scholarship Program (SNSP), from current law set amount ($12,000 in FY17), to an amount that reflects actual costs incurred by the private school to implement the child’s most recent IEP or services plan. [We assume this would begin in 2018-19, but this is not specified.]
  • The proposal details specific responsibilities of the school district in preparing an itemized cost statement, and the Department’s responsibilities in making a determination of actual costs (based on cost data submitted by the private school) and reconciling the aid reduction to the pupil’s resident school district.

Open Enrollment – Special Education Pupils

  • Similar to provisions for SNSP, change the payment amount for a pupil who has an IEP and who is open enrolled to a non-resident school district, from current law set amount ($12,000 in FY17), to an amount that reflects actual costs incurred by the nonresident school district to implement the child’s most recent IEP. [The memo again does specify that this would begin in 2018-19, but we assume it would.]
  • The proposal details specific responsibilities of both the resident and nonresident school district in preparing an itemized cost statement, and the Department’s responsibilities in making a determination of actual costs (based on cost data submitted by the nonresident school district) and reconciling the aid reduction to the pupil’s resident school district.

As noted, this stakeholder-developed payment model has only been in place for one year, and there has been no analysis done as to how the system is functioning.

The WASB has strong concerns about this possible change, which has not had a public hearing,  and which we have not had a chance to evaluate for its effect on public school districts.  The current  stakeholder-developed funding mechanism has only been in effect for one year and the WASB is not hearing from our members that it is causing any problems.  The proposed changes are also opposed by special education directors and groups representing families and students with disabilities.

We encourage you to contact your state legislators with these concerns.