Our View of the Legislature: Special Education

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As we near the end of this session, what has happened in the world of special education so far? It’s been an incredible year looking at the impacts of Covid-19 in our schools, the funding mechanisms of the Children’s Services Act, regulatory definitions of traumatic-brain injury, and so much more!

Mason’s SB 1313, which now encompasses SB 1099 (Stuart) and SB 1114 (Peake) and was the companion bill to HB 2117 (VanValkenberg), reported out of House Education on February 17, 2021 to soon be heard on the floor of the House! This bill would require that funds spent for special education services under the Children’s Services Act only be used on educational programs that are licensed by the Department of Education. The bill amends the eligibility for state pool funds to include children and youth previously placed in approved private school educational programs for at least six months who will receive transitional services in a public school setting for no longer than 12 months. Additionally, the bill requires that the Secretary of Education establish a workgroup of stakeholders to develop a plan to transfer Children’s Services Act funds currently reserved for children requiring an educational placement in a private special education day school or residential facility to the Department of Education, and to develop a standardized reporting to enable comparison of private day school rates across the state.

This bill is complemented by HB 2212 (Plum), which allows monitoring for the CSA program from locality to locality. This was passed out of Senate Rehabilitation on February 12, 2021, and referred to Senate Finance.

HB 2182 (Wilt) requires the Board of Education to amend its regulatory definition of “traumatic brain injury” for the purpose of the provision of special education for children with disabilities to include an acquired injury to the brain caused by a medical condition, including stroke, anoxia, infectious disease, aneurysm, brain tumors, and neurological insults resulting from medical or surgical treatments. The current regulatory definition of “traumatic brain injury” includes only an “acquired” brain injury caused by an external physical force. This passed both the House and the Senate as of February 15, 2021.

HB 2238 (Kory) requires any private school for students with disabilities to obtain accreditation from an accrediting agency recognized by the Virginia Council for Private Education within three years of the issuance of its initial three-year license. This was approved by the House, reported by Senate Health and Education on February 18, 2021 and will soon be heard on the floor of the Senate!

Senator Dunnavant’s SB 1288 was conformed to HB 2299 (Carr). It would require the Department of Education to provide training and guidance documents to local school divisions on the development of IEPs for children with disabilities, and perform other work to ensure the development of high-quality IEPs. This bill passed out of Senate Health and Education on February 18, 2021, is headed for Appropriations. Because the House version and the Senate version do not match, the Senator and Delegate will work on these bills in conference.

Also reporting out of Senate Health and Education on February 18, 2021 was HB 2316 (Mundon King), which would require the Board of Education to amend its regulations to ensure that each education preparation program graduate in a K-12 general education endorsement area demonstrates proficiency in understanding the role of general education teachers on the IEP team.

Additionally, SB 1190 (Kiggans), which directs the Board of Education to include advanced directive education in its curriculum framework for the Health Standards of Learning for high school students, passed out of the Senate and House Education on February 17, 2021.

Lastly, SB 1257 (McClellan), which requires the school board to provide at least three specialized student support positions, passed out of House Appropriations on February 17, 2021.

The disAbility Law Center of Virginia is available to educate policymakers about the implications of the decisions before them. Please continue to check back here for updates as the session proceeds, and let us know of any legislative proposals or budget issues that you think we should be following. Contact us at info@dlcv.org or by calling 1-800-552-3962 or 804-225-2042.