What Teachers Want:
If you’re like every other special education provider, you are having a significant time attracting and retaining special education teachers and assistants. According to Education week, the top reasons teachers leave their current jobs are:
- Salaries (25%)
- School Climate (16%)
- Level of autonomy to teach (13%)
- Leadership (10%)
- School funding/resources (6%)
- Benefits (5%)
- Relationship with other school educators (5%)
- Amount of time to collaborate (4%)
- Instructional philosophy/approach (3%)
- Advancement/growth (3%)
- Class size/student teacher ratio (3%)
While SED has upped the amount of teacher retention funding it is providing, it is not enough to keep pace with almost 7 years of no rate increases and a discrepancy in fringes of approximately 30 to 40% (according to SED, the current public school fringe factor is 63.89%). So while you’re not necessarily able to compete on a salary and fringe perspective, however these factors only represent 30% of the reasons teachers leave their employment. You need to focus on the areas where you can differentiate yourself from the public school alternatives. Try to create a positive climate, with strong leadership that is supportive and provides a collaborative environment for sharing ideas and independent thinking. Give teachers a voice in the education process and ensure that the culture is built on an interdisciplinary model with regular team meetings focused on open discussion about curriculum and how best to meet student IEP mandates. Also, find ways to bring in discretionary funding or creative ways to increase the level of resources and technology into the classrooms.
The more you can create the right work environment for your educational staff, the more you can limit the reasons that people will leave … after all, happiness and job satisfaction are key in attracting and retaining staff, and something that the publics may not be able to compete with you on.
As you should know by now, during the fall, SED released the 2018-19 rate methodology. While most providers focused on the 2% trend factor provided to preschool providers and the 3.4% trend given to school are providers, there were other provisions in the preschool methodology letter that provided real benefit to preschool providers:
Offset of actual revenue earned for SCIS classes – In the past, providers were required to offset revenue for the typically functioning children in their integrated classrooms equal to the greater of the actual revenue they received or the OCFS rate. With the increase in the number of children attending UPK and the difficulty experienced by integrated programs in attracting typically functioning children, SED changed the methodology to require the offset to be whatever providers actually collect for the year for the children within the integrated classrooms.
Greater of provision – Historically, preschool providers were limited to their prior year reconciled rate, trended forward utilizing the trend factor for the given year (2% for 2018-19). The rate methodology now provides for a new greater than calculation that is similar to the calculation that has been used in calculating school age rates for the last several years. Under the greater than provision, providers will receive their actual costs up to the greater of either:
- Their prior year reconciled rate trended forward utilizing the trend factor for the given year; or
- Their prospective rate for the year
This provision will be beneficial to providers that have single year decreases in their rates due to difficulty in finding staff or other unusual issues. They will not need to request rate relief from SED for a one year dip because the prospective rates are calculated based upon data from two years ago.
On the SEIT front, 2018-19 represents the first year that the regional average rates are fully phased in. Regional average rates are built off of provider’s 2012 financial data from their CFRs. As a result, providers are working off 7 year-old data without any increases. It is anticipated that it will be a couple years before SED will review the data coming in on provider CFRs to determine how the regional average rates will be adjusted.
Board of Regents Proposes $2.1 Billion increase in Aid:
The New York State Board of Regents released its proposed budget for Foundation aid for the 2019-2020 school year. The proposed budget included a $2.1 billion increase to support English Language Learners, career and technical education programs, and universal pre-kindergarten programs. In addition, the Board advanced a comprehensive set of funding proposals to best meet the needs of every student in New York by: achieving equity, implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act, supporting Early Childhood Learning and English Language Learners, and enhancing efficiency.
While the majority of the dollars are focused on districts and infrastructure, there are some provisions that could directly impact special education providers:
- $6 million has been proposed to expand existing initiatives aimed at recruiting and retaining qualified staff in approved special education programs and developing additional incentives to expand the number of qualified individuals to serve students with disabilities;
- $2 million has been proposed to establish Early Learning Regional Technical Assistance Centers to provide support to early care and educational settings including mental health consultation, training in social and emotional learning and development, and professional development on implementing high-quality early childhood education;
- $3 million has been proposed to expand QUALITYstarsNY, New York’s early childhood Quality Rating and Improvement System that provides an infrastructure for assessing, improving and communicating the quality of care provided by early learning programs throughout the state;
- $26 million has been proposed to expand the Universal Pre-Kindergarten program. Based on the recommendation of the Board of Regents, in 2017 the Governor and Legislature put the state on a path toward the consolidation of the multiple separate prekindergarten programs that existed. Building on that success, the Regents State Aid Proposal includes a total of $26 million for further expansion of programs for four-year-olds. First, $20 million would allow for the addition of 2,000 more children to be served, which would bring the overall percentage of students served in New York State to just under 70 percent. Second, $6 million would be provided for pilot programs to create a single reimbursement structure for prekindergarten inclusion programs by blending existing pre-kindergarten and preschool special education funding mechanisms; and
- $3.46 million was proposed to implement phase two of SED’s Special Education Services Management Data System to improve SED’s ability to collect, use, and disseminate relevant programmatic and fiscal information relating to programs and services operated by approved special education providers in the State.
Remember, these are just proposals. Stay tuned to see how these and other provisions fare when the final 2019-2020 budget is enacted.
Will EI Providers be Next in the Crosshairs?
Over the summer, 8 providers of related services to EI providers were indicted for fraudulent billing totaling more than $500,000. As a result, federal and state authorities are scrutinizing EI service claims in relation to session notes and logs to determine if this is a much larger issue in the marketplace. It is unsure as to whether the transgression of these 8 providers will spark audits of EI providers. In that event, it is imperative for EI providers to ensure that they have proper quality assurance functions in place and that they are properly meeting their Medicaid compliance requirements of educating staff, assessing risk, and performing testing.
Brian Warfield, MS
Brian is a member of Cerini & Associate’s senior SED audit and consulting staff where he works with nonprofit, special education and school district clients.