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SED Holds Preschool Stakeholder Meeting

On April 27th NYSED held another preschool stakeholder meeting with representatives from the state-wide preschool providers associations (NYSARC, CP State, The Alliance and ACTS).  SED representatives included Chris Suriano, Assistant Commissioner, Barbara Kozlowski Supervisor of the Preschool Unit, Joanne Lacrosse, Supervisor of the policy Unit and Suzanne Bolling, Finance Office, in addition to other SED staff from the preschool unit.  IAC was represented by Lisa Veglia from QSAC, Linda Rosenthal from VOA, Co-Chairs of the IAC Education Committee and Chris Treiber.  Christina Muccioli from AHRC New York City represented NYSARC and the IAC.

At the start of the meeting Mr. Suriano introduced the new Director of Special Education for NYSED Samuel Zimmerman. Mr.  Zimmerman has extensive experience in special education as a teacher and administrator working for the NYC DOE and most recent for the state of Massachusetts

Update on the Instructional Mealtime Guidance for Preschools

SED informed us that they intend to have the Instructional Mealtime Guidance ready for release in the next two weeks.  The guidance will be consistent with the NYSED Office of Early Learning policy in prekindergarten programs.  SED has determined that mealtime may now be counted as part of the daily instructional day for some preschool special education programs.  The guidance applies to both Preschool Special Class in an Integrated Setting (SCIS) and Special Class (SC).  SED told us the guidance document will outline the requirements for preschool programs that want to provide instructional lunch.  The requirements will include:

  • Staff to student ratios must be maintained during mealtime with at least .
  • Instructional and learning goals must be implemented during mealtime – including modeling appropriate mealtime behavior, facilitating and guiding meaningful conversations and fostering problem solving and turn taking.
  • Staff should receive professional development to ensure they are effectively implementing instructional mealtime.
  • Instructional Mealtime can only be provided in full-day special education preschool programs.
  • Preschool special education programs that are interested in implementing instructional mealtime must send an Instructional Mealtime Notification Form to NYSED by June 29th. This notification form includes a requirement that the agency identifying the sites and location for the service. It must be signed by the Executive Director.

Preschool programs must notify parents and their local school districts of their intent to implement instructional mealtime. The service will not be listed on the IEP and programs will have the option to provide instructional lunch or not. SED informed us that there would be no adjustment to a preschools tuition rate and their reimbursement would not change.      

Update on the process of determining capacity/regional need

SED discussed some data points that they need to consider but did not provide much detail on how they determine regional need. SED said that they intend to survey the regional associates to find out which data points they need to assess regional need.

Discussion of the New Provider Management System
In the 2017-18 enacted state budget, SED received funds to help develop a provider management system that would allow them to have current integrated data that would inform decision making in a number of areas including programmatic, fiscal, and policy. During the meeting, SED introduced the consulting firm they hired to develop the system – G Com, and they gave a brief presentation about the project. They stressed that the only way for the system to have reliable data would be for providers to enter data into the system. SED said that one of the purposes of this data management system would be to allow them to have real time data on vacant seats and to be able to assess current system capacity at any given time.  SED asked for all of the provider associations to provide feedback about what we believe would be the purpose of the data system and what data points should be included in the system.  We agreed that we would provide feedback to SED by the end of May.

Comments on the SCIS Workgroup/Concern around the role of 4410 providers

The providers present at the meeting who had participated in the SCIS Tuition Methodology workgroup expressed their concern about one of recommendations made by SED to make school districts SCIS providers. The provider association representatives expressed their concerns that SED’s goal was to have the SCIS programs taken over by the school districts.  Suzanne Bolling told the group that was not SED’s intent but to simply make the school districts take more responsibility for serving all preschool students.  SED believes that preschool children with disabilities can benefit from being included in an early childhood program.  The 4410 provider representatives reminded Suzanne that they were the first providers of SCIS programs and have been providing these programs for many years because they know the value of inclusive educational settings. Providers also expressed their disappointment with the recommendation letter to DOB because the letter did not offer any immediate fiscal support for programs that are contemplating closure of the SCIS programs.  Most of the providers present had to make the very difficult decision to close their SCIS classes because they could no longer afford to operate them. All of the 4410 providers expressed support for s 6% tuition increase recommendation for SCIS programs but stressed the importance of the special classes because not all children can be appropriately educated in a SCIS class.  They also expressed support for the recommendation to adjust the revenue offset to whatever the provider can collect to cover the ‘typical child’s education” 

An update on minimum wage funding

Suzanne Bolling provided an update to the group about the minimum wage survey and said that she anticipates the survey will be sent out in early May. The survey is similar to the one the OPWDD developed and uses wage bands based on hourly rates.  The survey will capture one year’s worth of data and will be based on the 15-16 CFR. The survey will be an Excel Sheet that will require the provider to fill in all of the data and when it is finished the Excel sheet will calculate the amount of funds the provider is entitled to request from SED for minimum wage.

Update on Rate Setting Process/ Delays in Waiver Requests

Suzanne Bolling acknowledged that Rate Setting Unit is taking a very long time to complete the waiver requests, but she also said that they have received an unprecedented number of them. Suzanne also said that the RSU has lost two team leaders with 30 plus years’ experience who retired recently. They are in the process of training 6 new staff members but with that said Suzanne said that “we cannot “waiver ourselves out of a bad tuition methodology. The tuition methodology system for preschool special education is broken and waivers will not fix it.  The waivers are complicated because there is no standard waiver request and each one must be evaluated individually and each one is unique to each specific provider. Suzanne told us that the most important thing that a provider can do before filing for a tuition waiver is to make sure that there is a strong rationale and data to support it the request.  Providers who file a request simply because they are losing too much money are not likely to have their tuition waiver approved. Suzanne also told the providers that DOB is looking very closely at the Capital Waiver requests and questioning the costs.  We briefly discussed interim plus rates and the proposed legislation that has been introduced in the Senate and anticipated to be introduced soon in the Assembly.    

IAC would like to express our gratitude to Lisa Veglia, Linda Rosenthal, and Christina Muccioli for traveling up to Albany to attend the Preschool Stakeholder meeting.

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