As we turn the page on 2017 and move into 2018, we continue to monitor what’s happening in the SED world. I’d like to say we’ve got all the answers, but the truth is, there seems to be more questions. Even so, just like it’s important to understand what the OSC is looking at, it is equally important to understand some of the issues that SED is grappling with so we can gain some insight into the direction they are moving in. So let’s look at some of the issues impacting SED providers as we move into 2018:
1. New SCIS Methodology:
SED has been meeting with the field to get some input into the direction of the new SCIS methodology. While the new methodology has not been finalized, we expect more answers in April/May, some of the early indicators are that SED is looking to:
- Change the ratio of special needs children to typically functioning children, requiring more typically functioning children per class. This will significantly increase the cost of providing integrated services as there will be less children per class to spread the special needs costs over.
- SED should be looking to more effectively integrate UPK and special education children in integrated classrooms. This does not seem to be a priority of SED at this point.
- SED is looking to develop a pre-school staffing model, similar to the school age model they developed several years ago. As part of this staffing model, SED is considering the need for floating teachers and TA’s.
- SED is considering several new staff position title codes including behavioral specialist, bi-lingual staff, and school psychologist/social worker.
2. Minimum Wage :
SED is still grappling with how they are going to handle minimum wage. Indications are that they are going to follow the methodology implemented by OPWDD (based upon 15/16 data), and will be looking to send out a survey by position title code to gather data about staff being paid below minimum wage by PTC. We understand for some programs, this can be frustrating, especially given the fact that the second installment of minimum wage has come with the changing of the year. Once implemented, programs will need to certify how the funds were used, and the increase attributable to the increase in minimum wage will be added to your rate.
3. Regents Meeting:
The Board of Regents has requested a $1.277 billion increase in State Aid (approximately 50% of what was requested last year), unfortunately only approximately $11 million is attributable to special education. With anticipated federal cutbacks, and the State facing a $4.4 billion budget deficit, it is unlikely that a large rate increase will occur for fiscal 2019. So even though the Board of Regents has requested 6% increases for State Aide for school districts, don’t expect to see increases in the special education marketplace greater than those received for 2018. Some of the issues discussed were:
- School districts will be pre-approved to evaluate pre-school children expected to have a disability (the Governor signed this into law during 2017).
- Requesting that going forward 853 schools receive an automatic statutory increase and they be given the ability to generate financial reserves.
- The Regents Blue Ribbon Committee recommended another $20 million to expand UPK to another 2,000 four year olds with a focus on high need eligible children.
The seed money that was supposed to be used to fund the SCIS program to ensure greater availability of typically functioning children was decreased to $6 million. These funds would be used to support the SCIS methodology goals for including more preschool students without disabilities in integrated classroom settings.
The Governor has released his budget, with only 3% increases for State Aide (approximately 50% of the amount requested by the Board of Regents). Unfortunately, there is no mention of 4410 and 853 schools within the Governor’s budget. It doesn’t appear that any of the Regents recommendations have been considered.
4. Teacher Shortages:
SED recognizes that providers are having a difficult time finding staff at all levels, as a result, SED has released proposed regulations that create four different grade level extensions for Students with Disabilities Generalist certificates, expanding the pool of special education teachers at many grade levels. The extensions permit teachers who hold a Students with Disabilities Generalist certificate to teach two grade levels above and/or below the grade levels of their certificate if they meet a teaching experience requirement and complete either 45 hours of Continuing Teacher and Leader Education (CTLE) or 3 semester hours of pedagogical coursework focused on the grade levels of the extension. In addition SED proposed a transitional B certificate that enables individuals to be employed as a teacher while completing an Alternative Teacher Preparation (ATP) program. Currently, Transitional B certificate holders must be employed full-time by the school or school district. However, some institutions of higher education have expressed an interest in creating ATP programs where the candidates are initially employed part-time, enabling them to gradually assume responsibility of their mentoring teacher’s classroom. The proposed regulation amendment allows candidates to be initially employed part-time and ultimately teach full-time for at least one school year under the guidance of a mentor, providing flexibility in ATP program models.
5. Instructional Lunch:
SED is looking to roll out guidance on instructional lunch that would allow programs to once again have an instructional lunch period, even if it is not specifically stated within the child’s IEP.
These are just some of the issues impacting the industry that we are continuing to follow. 2018 will be a busy year for SED funded agencies, as new rules and regulations are expected to be released throughout the year. If you have any questions throughout the year, please feel free to reach out to us.
Kenneth R. Cerini, CPA, CFP, FABFA
Ken is the Managing Partner of Cerini & Associates, LLP and is the executive responsible for the administration of our not-for-profit and educational provider practice groups. In addition to his extensive audit experience, Ken has been directly involved in providing consulting services for nonprofits and educational facilities of all sizes throughout New York State in such areas as cost reporting, financial analysis, Medicaid compliance, government audit representation, rate maximization, board training, budgeting and forecasting, and more.