The cost of educating a single student in New York is one of the highest in the country. Each year it cost an average of $20,000 per student to send a child to public schools in New York State. Some students cost more than others depending on their educational requirements, such as those students receiving special education services. It can be very challenging for school districts to control costs while ensuring the students are receiving a quality education.
In almost all schools, special education costs are rising, as are the number of students with complex needs. One way to mitigate costs is through the STAC (System to Track and Account for Children). The STAC is used to process requests for the Commissioner’s approval for reimbursement. A district can identify and claim State aid reimbursement for approved costs of services provided to eligible students using the STAC. This includes the cost of services for resident students, both within the district and those attending state-approved special education schools or BOCES programs.
STAC reimbursement can reduce costs significantly; however, such costs must be equal to or exceed a district’s threshold amount, as determined by NYSED. Before payment is made to a district, an Automated Verified Listing (AVL) is generated with information submitted for each STAC and the district must verify the information on the AVL during the STAC claiming process. Therefore, it is crucial that districts have procedures in place to identify students receiving services who would exceed the threshold. In addition, to maximize reimbursement, a district needs to ensure it is accounting for all costs incurred so that it can receive the most accurate reimbursement.
The question is, how can a district’s special education or pupil personnel services department help the district maximize its return from the State? Through our internal audit experiences with other districts, we have come to find that the following tips help:
To identify potential high-cost students, a district’s special education department should focus on collecting data through reviewing class enrollment, obtaining 1:1 aide assignments and class lists, analyzing class ratios, and calculating the costs for all teachers, teacher assistants, aides, and nurses/skilled nurses (i.e. salaries and fringes).
Districts should ensure their student management database remains up-to-date to ensure current information is available for the district to gather accurate information for STAC reimbursement. In addition, the district should track which students are assigned a 1:1 aide, a shared aide, and/or a nurse/skilled nurse.
In most districts, the information input into the STAC does not always come from the same department. Therefore, it is crucial that the lines of communication remain open between departments to ensure accurate and complete information is being gathered.
Districts that utilize BOCES for special education services should obtain the year-end bill from BOCES that details the services received by each resident student throughout the year. In addition, the district should ensure the appropriate service is logged into the STAC.
State aid reimburses 100% of approved tuition cost for non-resident school-age homeless students attending school in the district. Therefore, a district should maintain an updated listing of its homeless student population.
Public and/or State-approved Private Schools
A district should monitor and reconcile the prospective rates for public and/or State-approved private schools from which its resident students are receiving special education services. In addition, the district should ensure the appropriate service is logged into the STAC.
Have more questions about STAC? We are here to help! Contact our firm at 631-582-1600 to see how we can help you.