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:
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.
NYSED Posts Huge Regional Need Request for Preschool Special Education Seats in New York City
On April 18, 2018 SED posted a new Regional Need Request for NYC. The request was for more than 700 special class seats; almost half of these seats are for class ratios of six and eight students – children with the highest levels of need. The request also includes the need for 34 additional SCIS classes, bilingual MDE providers and SEIT services. This is by far the largest need request the NYC DOE has made and this need reflects the closing of several preschool special education programs as of June 30th. This is a sign that NYC is no longer able to provide services to the large number of preschool students who need special classes. Given the significant need for preschool seats in NYC we are very concerned that come July many children will not have an available placement and will be forced to sit at home without the critical services they are legally entitled to.
Breakdown of Special Class Seats Needed by Borough
Brooklyn – 158
Bronx – 116
Manhattan – 84
Staten Island – 116
Here is a link to the NYSED Regional Need Request
SCIS TUITION METHODOLOGY MEETING – SED REVEALS POTENTIAL RECOMMENDATIONS
On March 1, 2018, SED held a meeting of the SCIS Tuition Methodology workgroup to discuss a new funding methodology that will be considered for Preschool Inclusion Classes. Suzanne Bolling started the meeting by informing the group that any of the recommendations being presented were just that: recommendations and they did not represent any final decision or determination. Suzanne explained that there are many layers of approvals that need to be given and that SED is simply presenting options for consideration. Any of the options discussed at the meeting will be subject to stakeholder review, must be approved by their principals in SED including the Deputy and Assistant Commissioner, the Commissioner and the Board of Regents. In addition to DOB and possibly the legislature depending on the changes. Suzanne said that SED will offer both short-term and long-term solutions. They include changes to the rate-setting methodology, new SCIS models, budget-based rate methodology based on staffing standards, and the creation of policies and guidelines that will encourage inclusion options for preschool students with disabilities in early childhood settings.
· Improvements to separate funding structures: Tuition growth for existing providers to provide relief and avoid program closures.
· Rate Reform: Using the “higher of two years for the purposes of calculating the total cost screen plus growth – using 2 years would address an anomaly year of lower care days, a decline in enrollment etc.
· Revenue Offset: Address revenue offset to reflect SCIS program operations and separate funding structures. (Determine the cost of what a 4410 program cannot pay for, i.e., typical student education costs.)
· Improvements to existing models: Single entity operating SCIS Program – they would report all expenses
· Collaborating Programs: SED would establish increased reporting requirements for collaborating programs and require contract identify any costs related to program operations. SED will consider potential revenue offset as actual revenue received for typical students – (SED would require that the 4410 programs document all efforts to get funds for the cost of typical students) SED will “pro-rata” reduction of revenue offset based on staffing standards or approved ratios.
· SED proposes to move away from the current OCFS offset daycare rate and evaluate targeted shared instructional staff based on the new staffing standards or the approved ratio based on the new SCIS class ratios. The “pro-rata” would be based on the identification of shared instructional staff costs. SED would assign a per share cost for all of the typical students in the class.
New Inclusion Models
SED provided a description of the three new inclusion models or levels for SCIS Classrooms. Their goal for these three new levels would provide for greater flexibility in the required numbers of typical students.
Secondary Inclusion Program – Daily support with intermittent services to support students with IEP’s. These students would have fewer management needs and receive minimal or no related services. This would be a typical early childhood class with a maximum of 18 students, 1 Certified Teacher in Early Childhood with support from a special education teacher for either .25 FTE or .50 FTE during the day based on the number of students with IEP’s and a certified teacher assistant or aide depending on students. The aide could function as a teacher under daycare. SED proposes that the class could have a 50% – 70% ratio of typical students; 30-50% for students with IEP’s; 6-9 students with IEP’s.
Intermediate Inclusion Program – this model would serve students with moderate needs and include a full time certified early childhood teacher and a full-time special education teacher and a certified teacher assistant and aide. The certified teacher could also be dually certified in early childhood and special education. The class would have a maximum of 16 students and SED proposes between 50-70% would be typical students; 30-50% of the class would be students with IEP’s, between 5-8 students.
Primary Inclusion Program –this model would serve students with the highest levels of need and provide intensive small group instruction and enhanced staffing. This class would have a full time certified special education teacher and a certified teacher assistant and one aide. SED proposes that this class would have a maximum of 14 and that 60-70% of the students would be typically developing; 30-40% would be students with IEP’s, between 6-7 students.
SED also said that they will allow up to two additional students with a variance but will limit the variances for students after October 15th to children already enrolled in the class but who were identified as a student with a disability.
Budget Based Rates in SCIS
SED discussed the development of budget-based rates that would be created by comparing all other regional providers and evaluating all of the expense categories. If a provider deviated significantly from the regional averages they would be subject to review and need to justify “why”.
SED also proposed a set of “inclusion staffing standards” that would be aligned with the approved inclusion program models and used to determine a budget-based rate. SED provided a handout that listed all of the CFR position title codes including some new proposed positions and a determination of time allocation for each title code. Ms. Bolling said that she was working on developing an Excel Worksheet that would be based on the allocations per position title code. The provider would enter data for each category and the Excel Sheet will give the provider the exact number of allocated staff per position title code. This would allow providers to submit funding for staff. Providers would be able to sub-allocate between categories to find efficiencies and offer a more flexible use of funds. Budget based rates would allow the provider to determine the staff they needed based on the staffing allocation parameters. Compliance would be based on the performance of required functions rather than “where did the money go”. If a program failed to meet the performance requirements they would have to justify the spending and may need to reallocate staff.
Budget Based Funding would be based on projections of students and may be subject to changes if the number of students with IEP’s changed from year to year or enrollment changed significantly. It would be based on the maximum class size, ratios of students with IEP’s and the IEP mandates. SED could consider allowing providers to maintain a surplus of tuition revenue but this would be subject to limits and review.
Questions remain about budget-based rates:
1. What cycle would be utilized for budget-based rate making and rebasing?
2. What additional information/data must be captured on the CFR or fiscal reports to support this methodology?
3. What information should be used to determine the salary and fringe data for each position title code? What should the cost proxies be – current 4410 salary data, BEDS data?
4. What cost proxies would be used for clinician salaries?
SED discussed a set of new Inclusion Principles for existing Early Childhood Programs to expand inclusive opportunities for preschool students with disabilities. They would include:
· Updated guidance on placement for preschool students in the least restrictive environment.
· Require early childhood programs to adopt inclusion principles so that SCIS students would have equal access to all classroom benefits.
· SCIS students would be served in state-administered pre-k directly or dually enrolled and “count as both students with IEP’s and Pre-K students. (Need Federal approval)
· School Districts would be allowed to serve SCIS students in district-operated state Pre-k programs without needing to get separate SED approval.
Timeline for the Implementation of the new SCIS methodology:
· Presentation at the Board of Regents Meeting on March 12th
· SED must submit recommendations for new SCIS tuition methodology to Division of Budget on April 1st.
· Many of the proposals will require multiple levels of approval. Some will require regulatory or legislative changes.
We asked Ms. Bolling what immediate relief will be provided to the current SCIS providers who are struggling to survive. She said that tuition growth and addressing the revenue offset will help sustain providers.
There will be a detailed discussion and review of this meeting at the March Education Committee Meeting.
IAC Meets with Board of Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa, Regent Christine Cea and Regent Susan Mittler
On Tuesday May 10th IAC representatives Tom McAlvanah, Wini Schiff, and Chris Treiber met with Board of Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa, Regent Christine Cea, and Regent Susan Mittler. In preparation for the meeting IAC shared a copy of the testimony Chris gave during the Legislative Budget Hearing on Education in January. Our goal for this meeting was to introduce the IAC and the work of our education providers to Chancellor Rosa and to educate her about the financial and staffing crisis facing our schools. Chris and Wini discussed the education advocacy campaign “Our Children are Your Children” Chancellor Rosa and the other member of Board of Regents liked the title. Chancellor Rosa understood that the children served in our schools are public school children and that they are entitled to an appropriate education. Chris also presented an analysis of the most recent CFR data that highlighted the extent of the financial losses that special education preschool and school-age programs have experienced due to inadequate state funding. Chris also told the Chancellor and the members of the Board of Regents present about the high teacher turnover and vacancy rates and the challenges our schools are facing attempting to recruit and retain certified special education teachers. He provided the data on the significant salary disparity between what our schools can pay teachers and what school districts can pay. Chris stated the current reality for our students that children with the highest levels of need in the state are being educated by the least experienced teachers and unless the funding for these programs is increased this will not change. Chancellor Rosa and the other members of the Board of Regents expressed their concerns for special education preschool and school-age programs and recognized the importance of the services to children with the highest levels of need. Regent Mittler spoke about her rural part of the state where there are very few preschool special education programs and when one closed it had a significant impact on the area. They all acknowledged the need for better funding for these programs and asked us about our advocacy efforts with the legislature. We told them about our request for 14.7 million dollars for teacher recruitment and retention and that there was no additional money added to the final state budget. We thanked Chancellor Rosa for the support of SED and cited the last few recommendation letters requesting tuition increases for both 4410 and 853 programs. We expressed our hope that this year’s SED letters would make tuition increase recommendations reflective of the dire crisis facing our schools.
Chris discussed the large number of preschool programs that have closed and the discussion that he had with NYC SEQA Office that there would soon be a regional need request for New York City that would be very large. Chancellor Rosa was very interested in the New York City regional need and told us that she was going to be having a meeting in the next two weeks with the new School Chancellor for New York City Richard Carranza. Chancellor Rosa asked Chris if he could provide her with a series of concrete recommendations that she could discuss with Chancellor Carranza when she met with him for the first time. She wanted to be sure to discuss the issues facing our schools and would include them in her priority list for her meeting with the Chancellor.
In our recommendation letter that we sent to Chancellor Rosa we welcomed the new Chancellor and expressed our desire to develop a closer and more collaborative working relationship with the NYC DOE. We stated that our schools share the same goal, to ensure that all of New York City’s children receive a high-quality education and achieve their highest potential. We stressed that it is in the best interest of the NYC DOE and children with special needs that 4410 and 853 programs continue to offer quality special education services. These programs provide a free and appropriate education to children in NYC when the CPSE or CSE determines that there is no public-school program available to meet the child’s needs. We acknowledged that while NYC does not have a direct role in determining the tuition reimbursement for our programs NYC’s children and families have suffered from the consequences of the inadequate funding these programs have received for the past 7 years.
In the letter we made a series of suggestions to enhance our partnership with the NYC DOE and to improve the quality of services to New York City’s children with the highest levels of need.
853 programs are an integral part of the special education continuum and provide educational services to NYC special education students when District 75 is unable to meet their needs. The cost of the tuition for 853 programs is significantly less than the alternatives – private or residential schools. The regional average tuition cost at an 853 school is $50,679 while the cost at a private Carter-funded school can range as high as $100,000 or more for which NYC pays up to 100% of the cost. NYC is reimbursed 85% of the cost of tuition by NYS for a student attending an 853 school, yet, has made it easier for a parent with the financial resources to hire an attorney and battle the DOE for placement in a private school (and get NYC reimbursement), than to get a seat in an 853 school.
We concluded the letter by stating that the potential solutions we offer do not address the harsh reality facing these programs that serve many of New York City’s most vulnerable children. 4410 and 853 schools have suffered for many years without any tuition increases, and only in the last few years have they received very small increases. The impact of the growth freeze, and the limited tuition increases have left these programs on the brink of financial collapse and unable to recruit and retain certified special education teachers and teacher assistants.
NYC DOE holds a Focus Group Meeting with Select 4410 Providers about the Turning 5 Process
On May 9th the NYC DOE held a Turning 5 4410 Focus Group Meeting to get feedback from 4410 providers about the Annual 4410 Provider meetings and to evaluate the recent changes to the transition process. The meeting was attended by representatives from 11 preschool special education providers and DOE staff from their Turning 5 Transition Unit, 4410 Office, and the Office of Student Enrollment. Providers were asked about the Annual 4410 Provider Meetings and the discussion included an evaluation of the site locations – many preschool providers expressed frustration at the difficulty of travelling to the sites, especially the Manhattan location and challenges of parking at the Staten Island location. Recommendations were made that the DOE consider offering sessions in each borough on a rotating schedule from year to year and at sites that are located within walking distance of public transportation. The providers also recommended that the DOE consider a panel that would discuss
the how a school implements an IEP for a Turning 5 preschool student and the instructional supports that would be available to meet the student’s needs. The group recommended that the panel include a principal, teacher, and a parent. Some of the provider feedback about last year’s Annual 4410 Turning 5 meeting included concerns that the meetings failed to address behavioral issues faced by a number of 4410 preschool children and more discussion about the ICT classes which more of the preschool graduates are being recommended to attend. There was also a recommendation that the DOE provide a live video stream of the presentations to allow greater participation from 4410 providers. The 4410 providers were also asked to give their feedback in regards to the changes to the Turning 5 transition procedures that the DOE implemented this year. Much of the feedback was positive with most providers agreeing that the process went well this year and that DOE staff had more contact with parents and schools. They all agreed that the color coded materials and the case assignment information provided to the preschools were very helpful. The 4410 providers identified that following issues as areas for improvement for next year:
· Ensure that IEP Teams assigned to students who are medically fragile or have significant learning needs have the knowledge and understanding to develop an IEP and make recommendations for an appropriate kindergarten placement.
· Address the needs of children who are in foster care or are homeless to ensure that the transition process is completed in a timely fashion and their unique needs are met.
· Transition planning for students who move during the Turning 5 process to ensure that their case is completed and that a kindergarten placement is offered in their new school district.
· Progress Reports – provider continue to be asked for copies of these reports even though they submitted them to the DOE before the February 1st deadline.