OLR Bill Analysis

sHB 7016

AN ACT IMPLEMENTING THE RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE MORE COMMISSION SPECIAL EDUCATION SELECT WORKING GROUP.

SUMMARY:

This bill creates various duties relating to special education and assigns them to the State Department of Education (SDE), regional education service centers (RESCs), the State Board of Education (SBE), the Auditors of Public Accounts, and local and regional boards of education.

It requires SDE to:

1. report annually to the Education Committee, beginning in FY 16, on the amount of federal funds received under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) for special education services ( 1-2);

2. design a new, user-friendly Individualized Education Program (IEP) form with the help of a new IEP Advisory Council ( 4-5);

3. establish and administer a digital IEP form pilot program ( 6);

4. conduct a study of assistive technology (AT) equipment-sharing programs in Connecticut and other states and submit its findings and recommendations by January 1, 2016 to the Education Committee ( 7);

5. distribute complete and accurate information about special education programs and services offered by the state, local and regional boards of education, RESCs, and other providers to organizations representing parents and guardians of children requiring special education services, unless prohibited from doing so by law ( 8);

6. publish on its website a calendar of special education learning and training opportunities for the public that it receives from advocacy groups, boards of education, RESCs, or other providers ( 9);

7. have memoranda of understanding (MOUs) with various state agencies regarding the provision of special education, health care, and transition services ( 15); and

8. conduct a study on the collection, assimilation, and reporting of longitudinal student data related to special education outcomes ( 16).

The bill also requires the Department of Social Services (DSS) to report annually to the Education Committee, beginning in FY 16, on the amount of federal funds received under Medicaid for special education services.

It requires each of the six RESCs to:

1. participate in a special education funding working group ( 10);

2. develop its own regional model for providing special education transportation, training, and therapeutic services ( 11);

3. survey the special education services and programs provided in its region to identify the need for enhanced or new services ( 17); and

4. study the feasibility of providing and administering new special education services and programs that are of equal or greater quality than those currently provided in its region by local or regional boards of education or private providers ( 18).

The bill also:

1. requires SBE to collaborate with other state agencies on special education transition services for students who are graduating from, or aging out of, the public school system ( 3);

2. requires the Auditors of Public Accounts to examine the records and accounts of private providers of special education services ( 14);

3. expands special education coursework requirements for teacher certification ( 12); and

4. clarifies and expands parents' and guardians' rights during special education Planning and Placement Team (PPT) meetings at which their child's IEP is developed, reviewed, or revised ( 13).

EFFECTIVE DATE: July 1, 2015, except the following provisions take effect upon passage: (1) the new IEP form and advisory council; (2) the AT equipment-sharing study; (3) the RESC working group, regional service models, and service feasibility study; (4) parental PPT rights; and (5) the longitudinal data study.

SDE DUTIES

1-2 – Reporting on Federal IDEA and Medicaid Funds Received

Beginning in FY 16, the bill requires SDE's annual report on federal IDEA funds to include:

1. the total amount of (a) federal funds received under IDEA, (b) these funds paid by SDE to local or regional boards of education, and (c) these funds paid by SDE to each individual local or regional board of education and

2. a description of how these federal funds are being spent, including which programs receive federal funds from the department.

5 – IEP Advisory Council

The bill establishes a nine-member IEP Advisory Council to help the education commissioner develop a new IEP form that is easier for practitioners to use and for parents and students to understand. SDE must provide administrative support to this council. Council members must include:

1. a director of pupil personnel, appointed by the House speaker;

2. a school superintendent, appointed by the Senate president pro tempore;

3. two advocates for parents or guardians of students requiring special education services, one appointed by the House majority leader and the other by the Senate majority leader;

4. a public school principal, appointed by the House minority leader;

5. a representative from the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education (CABE), appointed by the Senate minority leader;

6. the education commissioner or her designee;

7. a certified public school teacher, appointed by the governor; and

8. a RESC Alliance representative, appointed by the governor.

Appointing authorities must make their appointments within 30 days after the bill takes effect and fill any vacancies. The House speaker and Senate president pro tempore must select the council's chairpersons from among its members. The chairpersons must schedule the council's first meeting and hold it within 60 days after the bill takes effect.

The council terminates on the date the education commissioner submits the new IEP form to the Education Committee, or January 1, 2017, whichever is later.

4 – IEP Form

The bill requires the newly designed IEP form to include a brief description of the state parent training and information center established under IDEA as well as the center's contact information. SDE's Bureau of Special Education must place this description in a conspicuous place on the first page of the IEP form using at least 12-point Times New Roman font.

Under the bill, the education commissioner must submit the new IEP form to the Education Committee by January 1, 2017.

6 – Digital IEP Form Pilot Program

For FYs 16 to 18, the bill requires SDE to establish and administer a digital IEP form pilot program. The program must use a web-based IEP database system that:

1. uses computer software wizards to help develop IEP forms;

2. allows for draft and official IEP forms;

3. allows the sharing of data and IEPs among authorized users;

4. integrates with other SDE systems, such as the statewide public school information system, in order to reduce duplicate data entries; and

5. integrates with school personnel and student reporting systems.

The bill requires SDE to examine any existing IEP special education tracking and reporting system software developed by other states. It also requires the education commissioner to select three towns that are members of the Nutmeg Network (see BACKGROUND) to participate in the pilot program. She must select one town each with a population of (1) less than 10,000, (2) between 10,000 and 50,000 and (3) at least 50,000.

By October 1, 2017, SDE must submit a report on the pilot program to the Education Committee that analyzes and evaluates its implementation for each of the three participating towns.

15 – Interagency MOUs

The bill requires SDE to enter into MOUs with the Bureau of Rehabilitation Services (BRS), Office of Early Childhood, Department of Developmental Services (DDS), Department of Children and Families, DSS, and Department of Correction on providing special education, health care, and transition services. The MOUs must (1) account for current programs and services, (2) utilize best practices, and (3) be updated or renewed at least every five years.

It also allows the above agencies, other than SDE, to enter into MOUs with each other as necessary for the same purpose. The MOUs must meet the criteria listed above.

16 – Longitudinal Student Data Study

The bill requires SDE to study the collection, assimilation, and reporting of longitudinal student data related to special education outcomes. The study must:

1. examine how SDE can collect and analyze data related to students who received special education and have exited the public school system, including data related to subsequent employment and participation in state programs, at regular intervals over a ten-year period following such students' exit from the public school system;

2. review which agencies may need to participate in this data collection;

3. project the costs related to the regular collection and analysis of such data; and

4. examine the existing obstacles to collecting and analyzing such data.

SDE must use the study's results to help develop special education and transition services policy. SDE must submit study findings to the Education Committee by January 1, 2016.

DSS DUTIES

Also, beginning in FY 16, the bill requires DSS to make an annual report on Medicaid special education funds that includes:

1. the total amount of (a) federal funds received through the Medicaid School Based Child Health Program for special education and related services, (b) these funds paid by DSS to fund these services, and (c) these funds DSS paid to each provider of these services and

2. a description of which programs receive these funds from DSS.

RESC DUTIES

10 – Special Education Funding Working Group

The bill establishes a 13-member RESC special education funding working group to:

1. study the funding provided to and expenditures of RESCs for providing special education services, including the sources of these funds and the ways in which RESCs use them to provide such services and

2. recommend how RESCs can access additional special education funding and use it more efficiently and in ways that expand provision of special education services, such as transportation, training, and therapeutic services.

SDE must provide administrative support to the working group. The working group must consist of:

1. a representative from the Capitol Region Education Council RESC, appointed by the House speaker;

2. a representative from the Area Cooperative Educational Services RESC, appointed by the Senate president pro tempore;

3. a representative from CABE, appointed by the House majority leader;

4. a chief executive officer of a Connecticut town, city, or borough, appointed by the Senate majority leader;

5. a school superintendent, appointed by the House minority leader;

6. a representative from the Connecticut Association of School Business Officials, appointed by the Senate minority leader;

7. the education commissioner or her designee;

8. the Office of Policy and Management secretary or his designee;

9. a director of pupil personnel, appointed by the governor;

10. an Education Connection RESC representative, appointed by the governor;

11. an EASTCONN RESC representative, appointed by the governor;

12. a LEARN RESC representative, appointed by the governor, and

13. a Cooperative Educational Services RESC representative, appointed by the governor.

The bill requires appointing authorities to (1) make their appointments within 30 days after the bill takes effect and (2) fill any vacancies. The House speaker and Senate president pro tempore must select the working group's chairpersons from among its members. The chairpersons must schedule the working group's first meeting and hold it within 60 days after the bill takes effect.

The working group must report to the Education Committee on its findings and recommendations. The group must terminate on the day it submits the report or July 1, 2016, whichever is later.

11 – Regional Model for Special Education Services

The bill requires each RESC to develop its own regional model for providing special education transportation, training, and therapeutic services to be used for all school districts that the RESC serves. Each model must include a:

1. regional transportation plan, developed in consultation with public transit districts, that provides transportation to children requiring special education and related services;

2. regional educator training plan that provides special education training to teachers, school paraprofessionals, and administrators that includes (a) instruction on classroom techniques to improve the provision of special education services to children and (b) the implementation of scientific, research-based interventions;

3. regional plan for providing therapeutic services, including speech, physical, and occupational therapies; and

4. plan for providing transportation, training, and therapeutic services in a manner that makes them readily available to each school district the RESC serves, rather than by a school district's request.

By July 1, 2016, each RESC must submit its model to SBE and the Education Committee.

17 – Survey of Special Education Services and Programs

The bill requires each RESC, by July 1, 2016, to survey the special education services and programs provided in its respective region to identify the need for enhanced or new services and programs. The survey must include:

1. an inventory of special education services and programs provided to public school students by local and regional boards of education and private providers,

2. the number of students receiving special education services or in special education programs provided by a local or regional board of education or private provider,

3. the total cost incurred by each school district for all such special education services and programs, and

4. the cost incurred by each school district for each special education service and program.

Each RESC must develop and maintain its own survey procedure and may conduct subsequent surveys as needed.

18 – New Service and Program Feasibility Study

The bill requires each RESC to study the feasibility of providing and administering new special education services and programs that are of equal or greater quality than those currently provided in its region by local or regional boards of education or private providers. The study must:

1. identify new and current special education services and programs provided by the RESC;

2. take into account the areas of need identified in the survey of special education services and programs described above;

3. consider the infrastructure, planning, personnel, funding, and additional needs required to initiate and maintain special education services and programs provided by the RESC; and

4. include (a) recommendations for sites for future special education services and programs provided by the RESC and (b) a timeline for their implementation.

By October 1, 2016, each RESC must submit its feasibility study to SBE and the Education Committee.

SBE DUTIES

The bill requires SBE, in collaboration with BRS, DDS, and the Office of Workforce Competitiveness, to:

1. coordinate the provision of transition resources, services, and programs to children requiring special education services;

2. create, and update as necessary, a fact sheet that lists and briefly describes the state agencies that provide transition resources, services, and programs;

3. make the fact sheet available to parents, teachers, administrators, and boards of education; and

4. annually collect information about transition resources, services, and programs provided by other state agencies, and make it available to parents, teachers, administrators, and boards of education.

Beginning with the 2015-16 school year, SBE must annually distribute the above information to the parent of a child requesting special education services in grades six to 12 at a PPT meeting for the child. A parent includes the (1) child's parent or guardian requesting special education services, (2) surrogate parent, or (3) pupil, if he or she is 18 years old or is an emancipated minor.

AUDITORS OF PUBLIC ACCOUNTS DUTIES

The bill requires the Auditors of Public Accounts ('the auditors”) to examine the records and accounts of certain private providers of special education services. The bill defines a private provider as any private school, agency, or institution, including a group home.

Audit Purpose

Under the bill, the auditors must examine a private provider's records and accounts if it: (1) has entered into an agreement with a local or regional board of education or (2) receives any state or local funds to provide special education and related services, in connection with any grant made by any state agency under state law or any public or special act. The examination must include a compliance audit of whether the private provider expended these state or local funds for allowable costs in accordance with (1) state and federal law and (2) the IEP program for each child receiving special education and related services from the provider.

Audit Frequency

The bill requires the auditors to examine these private providers' records and accounts at least once every five years; however, no provider may be examined more than once during that period, unless the auditors find a problem.

Audit Findings

The auditors must report their findings to the (1) local or regional board of education that contracted with the private provider, (2) education commissioner, and (3) Education Committee.

TEACHER CERTIFICATION REQUIREMENTS

The bill expands special education coursework requirements for teacher certification beginning July 1, 2016. To obtain an initial educator certificate on and after that date, a person must complete one or more courses in special education on classroom techniques in reading, differentiated instruction, social-emotional learning, cultural competencies, and AT. Any person issued an initial certificate before July 1, 2016 does not have to comply with these new requirements.

Current law already requires applicants to complete at least 36 hours of special education coursework on (a) the growth and development of exceptional children, including handicapped and gifted and talented children and children who may require special education, and (b) methods for identifying, planning for, and working effectively with special needs children in a “regular” classroom.

PARENTAL RIGHTS IN PPT MEETINGS

The bill specifies that parents and guardians have the right to (a) participate in all portions of the Planning and Placement Team (PPT) meeting at which a child's IEP is developed, reviewed, or revised and (b) have the student's assigned school paraprofessional, if the student has one, to be present and participate in all portions of the PPT meeting. It requires boards of education to inform parents and guardians of these rights immediately after identifying a child as needing special education and at each PPT meeting.

BACKGROUND

Nutmeg Network

The Nutmeg Network is governed by the Connecticut Commission on Educational Technology, the state's principal educational technology policy advisor. It combines the Connecticut Education Network, the Public Safety Data Network, and the Connecticut Open Access Network.

The network was built using fiber-optic connections, with the Department of Administrative Services Bureau of Enterprise Systems and Technology and the University of Connecticut providing project management, network architecture, and operational support. The network initially consisted of 220 fiber sites throughout the state. Connecticut received federal funding to add 120 more sites in northwestern and northeastern Connecticut and along the shoreline.

COMMITTEE ACTION

Education Committee

Joint Favorable Substitute

Yea

33

Nay

0

(03/27/2015)