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ACT NO. 117

(H.629)

Special Education; Educational Support System

This act gives responsibility for an education support system to superintendents; requires each superintendent to submit an annual report describing the status of the educational support system and how funds received due to Medicaid reimbursement and poverty weighting were used to support the system; clarifies that the state does not require a school district to provide special education services beyond those required by federal law; clarifies conditions under which a school district may consider cost as a factor when developing an individualized education plan; adds to the list of information that must be reported in the Commissioner of Education’s annual special education report to the General Assembly; and authorizes the Commissioner to use up to two percent of the state appropriation for special education to help school districts with special education expenditures of an unusual and unexpected nature.

The act also directs the Commissioner of Education to develop and implement a plan to: increase the capacity of general education to meet the needs of more students outside special education by increasing and improving pre-service training and professional development for all teachers working in an inclusive classroom; increase the capacity of the compensatory education system to meet the needs of more students outside special education by focusing resources on the educational support system; support the special education system by increasing the number of qualified special education teachers, and providing legal and technical support; help to reduce costs by providing data on types and ranges of services and associated costs, auditing special education spending in all districts, training district teacher-leaders in cost-effective practices, and clarifying certain rules; and develop a fiscally sustainable formula for funding of special education.

The Commissioner is directed to report on the progress of the plan in each of the next two years, and to make recommendations based on experience with implementing the plan for further strengthening the compensatory education system and containing special education costs. The Secretary of Administration is directed to work with others to study how costs for special education should be shared among agencies which provide the services.

Finally, the act repeals existing caps on the state appropriation for aid for special education expenditures and establishes that the general assembly will appropriate an amount for special education in each of the next four years which is greater than the previous year’s appropriation by a percentage tied to the change in the Vermont domestic product. If actual spending is less than that amount, the excess will be used to increase the intensive reimbursement rate for special education expenditures.

Effective Date: July 1, 2000