Meeting of the Board of Regents | September 2007
TO: The Honorable the Members of the Board of Regents
FROM: Rebecca H. Cort
SUBJECT: The Temporary Task Force on Preschool Special Education Created by Article VII of the 2007-2008 State Budget
DATE: August 29, 2007
STRATEGIC GOAL: Goals 1 and 2
Issue for Discussion
The Temporary Task Force on Preschool Special Education
Reason(s) for Consideration
Created by Article VII of the 2007-08 State Budget
This item provides information to the Board of Regents on the status of activities of the Temporary Task Force on Preschool Special Education resulting in the required submission of a report by November 15, 2007 to the Board of Regents, the Governor, the Temporary President of the Senate, the Speaker of the Assembly, the Minority Leaders of the Senate and Assembly and the Director of the Division of the Budget.
Chapter 57 of the Laws of 2007 created a Temporary Task Force on Preschool Special Education. The 15 members of the Task Force serve by appointment of the Governor. The Deputy Commissioner of VESID, as the Commissioner’s designee, and the Deputy Director of the Division of the Budget co-chair the Task Force. The membership also includes representatives from State agencies that play a role in coordinating services for preschool students. These agencies include the Department of Health, the Council on Children and Families, the Commission on Quality of Care and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities, and the Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities. Three representatives each from school districts, counties, and preschool special education providers have also been appointed.
Article VII identified three functions to be addressed by the Task Force members related to improving early education for children with disabilities. Three workgroups were formed to focus on these functions. They are as follows:
- Transition/Least Restrictive Environment – To study and evaluate the relationship between preschool special education and other early childhood programs including early intervention programs, Universal Pre-kindergarten (UPK) and other publicly funded pre-kindergarten programs; to make recommendations on approaches to improve transition from early intervention to preschool special education and from preschool special education to school-age special education; and on ways to enhance delivery of special education programs in the least restrictive environment to children attending UPK programs and other publicly funded pre-kindergarten programs.
- Rate Setting – To study the current tuition rate-setting methodology for preschool special education programs and services and to make recommendations for improvement.
- Delivery Systems – To conduct a comparative study of the systems of delivery of preschool special education programs and services in New York and other states and to make recommendations for changes in New York’s system of delivery of such programs and services that will promote the cost-effective delivery of appropriate programs and services in compliance with the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The workgroup will research financing of preschool special education and best practices in states with comparable needs and service levels.
Task Force Activities:
A statement of “Purpose and Principles” was developed and reviewed by the Task Force to guide its deliberations in developing its recommendations. The following excerpt contains the main points of the statement:
It is the purpose of the Task Force on Preschool Special Education to recognize New York’s strengths and challenges and offer recommendations to policy makers for an improved service system that advances the following principles:
- Children and their families should experience transitions that are as seamless as possible.
- Families must be partners in decision making.
- Children should be served in the most appropriate setting and, while some will require care in a specialized environment, all child care settings should be equipped to help children with disabilities succeed.
- Regulation must be reasonable and as consistent as possible across settings and oversight agencies, and rates must support quality and encourage efficiency.
- Payors and decision makers must share a goal of ensuring that a student receives the appropriate services to meet that child’s needs and are delivered in a cost effective manner.
- All available resources and funding must be employed to benefit the child.
- There should be as much consistency as possible in decision making across the State.
- The State must be able to measure outcomes for the children who participate in preschool special education services, including their success in school.
The Department developed and disseminated a National survey to all states regarding their systems of preschool special education delivery for comparison with New York State. The National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE) assisted Department staff in obtaining and analyzing more in-depth data for consideration of Task Force recommendations. The in-depth surveys of selected states addressed several areas of system delivery related to:
- funding and services including the use of Medicaid and private health insurance and transportation;
- seamless transition for children birth to age five, including the transition process, mechanisms for sharing of information between the Early Intervention (EI) and Preschool Special Education Systems, and eligibility for preschool special education;
- standards and oversight systems, including consistency of learning standards across early education agencies programs and settings;
- identification of promising practices to promote the development of quality standards and oversight systems;
- progress tracking and professional development; and
- continuum of services, innovations in service delivery and criteria for recommendations.
The analysis of the responses to the survey from Florida, Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and California revealed significant differences between New York and other states, especially in the level of use of private providers. Most states rely on the public school districts to provide preschool special education services.
As part of the effort to gain insight from a wide variety of stakeholders, the Task Force held six Regional Roundtable Sessions (New York City, Syracuse, Buffalo, Rochester, Long Island and Albany) in August. Approximately 600 individuals including parents and those representing counties, school districts, preschool special education providers, as well as State agencies involved in providing funding and/or oversight of services participated. The Task Force is particularly interested in obtaining the opinions of families of preschoolers identified as having a disability. The discussions revealed concerns with issues such as consistency of the Committee on Preschool Special Education (CPSE) recommendations, availability of bilingual services, service coordination as students transition to preschool from EI, the continuum of services for students with autism, and the need for increased professional development for CPSE members.
Follow-up surveys have been developed and are being completed on-line via the VESID website by the various groups that attended the Roundtable Sessions. Survey results are being used to provide input on the significant issues being addressed by the Task Force. An analysis of the survey data will be reported in the Task Force Report and reflected in the Task Force recommendations.
The Task Force has identified a number of preliminary recommendations to address the three designated functions. Future Task Force meetings will be focused on finalizing recommendations including, but not limited to, the following areas:
- Continuity of services from early intervention to preschool special education
- family support, assistance and identification of resources
- Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)
- supporting the needs of children with disabilities by increasing the availability of a continuum of services in a variety of inclusive settings including but not limited to Head Start, UPK, child care settings and nursery schools
- professional development through inservice and preservice to support education of children with disabilities in the LRE
- Rate Setting
- county participation
- a new rate-setting methodology
- rates for special education itinerant teacher (SEIT) services
- rates for related services only (RSO) for services provided separate from special education classroom based programs
- accountability measures
- Delivery Systems
- State aid formula including State, county and possible school district contributions
- offering possible incentives for districts to operate integrated UPK programs
- government structure for administration of the State’s preschool special education program
- study of transportation systems across counties to reduce transportation costs
- the development of early education learning standards for all children including children with disabilities receiving special education programs and services in a variety of settings including Head Start, school district UPK, child care settings, and nursery schools
- the development of guidelines and standards for CPSE decision making, service delivery and best practices
Details related to the Task Force, including minutes of the full Task Force and separate workgroup meetings and the survey instruments for stakeholders are available on the VESID website at www.vesid.nysed.gov/specialed/preschool/taskforce/home.html.
Timeline for Implementation
Task Force meetings were held June 28, July 17, and August 23, 2007. Additional meetings are scheduled for September 18, October 17, and November 6, 2007. The Task Force is considering convening an additional meeting in early October to provide time for further discussion and finalization of Task Force recommendations. The final report will be organized to include:
- an executive summary;
- Task Force membership and representation;
- description of the process that was used to consider issues and produce recommendations with broad-based outreach to stakeholders; and
- identification of issues and questions, relevant facts, recommendations (legislative, regulatory and policy or practice change) and issues requiring further study and analysis. Recommendations will include pros and cons, implementation issues, and circumstances in which a recommendation is contingent on other changes.
Further information on the progress of the Task Force will be shared with the Board of Regents in the Fall. The Final Report of the Task Force will be formally submitted to the Board of Regents, the Governor, legislative leaders and the Director of the Division of the Budget by November 15, 2007.