Questions About Special Education

(You might also want to see “Questions Related to Students")

What options may a PSA use to meet its responsibilities to provide a free appropriate public education, as required by state and federal law, to a student with a disability?

Special education includes all programs and services defined in Rule 340.1701c of the REVISED ADMINISTRATIVE RULES FOR SPECIAL EDUCATION .

As provided in Section 380.1751 of the Revised School Code: www.michiganlegislature.gov.

The board of a local school district [or PSA] shall provide special education programs and services designed to develop the maximum potential of each handicapped person in its district on record…for whom an appropriate educational or training program can be provided in accordance with the intermediate school district special education plan, in either of the following ways or a combination thereof:

Operate the special education program or service.

Contract with its intermediate school board, another intermediate school board, another local school district board, and adjacent school district board in a bordering state, the Michigan school for the blind, the Michigan school for the deaf, the department of Community Health (mental health), the department of social service). The intermediate school district of which the local school district [or PSA] is constituent shall be a party to each contract even if the intermediate school district does not participate in the delivery of the program or services.

Pursuant to Attorney General Opinion No. 6915 (1996), PSA’s are not required directly to employ teachers. Instruction at a PSA’s is to be provided by certificated teachers (exception-refer to Section 380.505) however, PSA’s may contract with outside companies for the provision of instructional services. Therefore, “a public school academy is not subject to Section 380.1231 of the Revised School Code, which requires the board of a school district to ‘hire and contract with qualified teachers’ and it may contract with an outside company for the provision of instructional services by employees of that company.”

In addition to the methods listed above, a PSA may contract with any agency approved by the State Board for delivery of ancillary professional education services. “Ancillary and other related services” are defined at Rule 340.1701c in the Revised Administrative Rules for Special Education: “services that are specially designed to meet the unique needs of persons with disabilities to age 25….”

If a PSA chooses to hire staff or contract with a private agency for “services” as described in question #1 above, is the PSA entitled to apply for reimbursement under the State School Aid Act (Section 388.1651a, special education funding), and the intermediate school district special education millage?

Yes. A PSA is considered to be a local school district under Section 388.1603(5) of the State  School Aid Act, and is considered a local district to be included in the intermediate school district plan for special education programs and services. Therefore, PSA’s have the same right to participate in state school aid and intermediate school district special education funding as any other local school district, in accordance with the provisions to the intermediate school district plan for special education programs and services.

If a PSA is entitled to intermediate school district special education millage funds, is the PSA held to the same limitations as other local district, i.e., cap on student-staff ratio used for certain categories of programming?

Yes. For purposes of special education services, a PSA is bound to the same requirements as other local constituent districts served by their respective intermediate school districts. To participate, the PSA, just as any other constituent district, must be recognized in its respective intermediate school district plan for special education programs and services.

Is a PSA eligible for Individuals with Disabilities Education Act funds?

Yes. Federal special education funds under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act are granted to the intermediate school districts. These funds are distributed to constituent local school districts according to the intermediate school district plan for special education programs and services, which must comply with state and federal regulations controlling use and distribution of the funds. The intermediate school district plan for special education programs and services is developed cooperatively with local constituent school districts, including PSAs.

If a PSA is eligible for intermediate school district special education millage and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Funds, must a PSA follow the same requirements as other local educational agencies for obtaining funds, e.g., filing of forms and applications?

Yes. A PSA must follow the same requirements as other local educational agencies. Both state and federal funds are appropriated under Article 5 of the State School Aid Act of 1979, as amended, MCL 388.1651a et seq.

Article 5 of the State School Aid Act indicates the funds may be used for the purpose of reimbursing districts and intermediate school districts for special education programs, services, and special education personnel.

Article 5 of the State School Aid Act allocates funds for:
i. Special education programs and services as defined in Article 3 of the Revised School Code, MCL 380.1701, et seq.
ii. A total of salaries and other compensation paid to approved special education personnel. Rule 340.1771 through Rule 340.1799d provide personnel approval criteria.

Section 388.1658 of the State School Aid Act, allocates funds to districts and intermediate districts for providing specialized transportation services, as determined by MDE, for pupils in special education programs and services as defined in Section 388.6 of the Revised School Code. Specialized transportation services is defined in Rule 388.371 of the Michigan Administrative Code Rules governing State Aid for Transportation of School children.

Must a PSA adhere to all of the Michigan Revised Administrative Rules for Special Education, the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and other state and federal statutes?

Yes. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, P.L. 105-17 (IDEA) considers the state as a whole. If the state (as a whole) receives federal funds, then all entities of the public educational system are responsible to comply with IDEA provisions, including ensuring that each eligible child with a disability is provided a “free appropriate public education.” Michigan complies with the IDEA its implementing regulations. A PSA is required to adhere to Michigan statues and rules for special education, as well as the federal requirements.

The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (34 CFR Part 99)(FERPA) has a broader applicability than special education; it applies to all public educational entities and their students, whether or not special education is at issue. The purpose of FERPA is to protect the confidentiality of student educational records. FERPA is a federal law that affords parents the right to have access to their children’s education records, the right to seek to have the records amended, and the right to have some control over the disclosure of information from the records. Educational institutions shall not release educational records to non-school employees without consent of the parents. FERPA does permit schools to work with juvenile justice system agencies. Failure of an educational agency or institution to comply with FERPA can result in loss of federal funding.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, P.L. 93-112, requires that “no qualified handicapped person shall, on the basis of handicap, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits from Federal financial assistance….” The Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education enforces the law prohibiting specific discriminatory activities. The law applies to elementary and secondary, as well as postsecondary schools. The Act was reauthorized in 1998 with amendments and added links to the Workforce Investment Partnership Act of 1998. The Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1998 included extensive links between vocational rehabilitation agencies and state workforce systems. Section 504 also includes “hidden disabilities,” such as physical and mental impairments that are not readily apparent to others (i.e., learning disabilities, diabetes, epilepsy, heart disease, and chronic illness).

Is the intermediate school district required to monitor special education programs and services?

Yes. A PSA is identified in statute as a local public school district and has the same rights and responsibilities as any other school district. The Michigan Department of Education is required to monitor local and intermediate school districts for compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and with Michigan’s Revised Administrative Rules for Special Education. This activity includes a PSA.

The intermediate school districts are an integral part of the monitoring process. As such, intermediate school districts must monitor a PSA to ensure their compliance with pertinent special education requirements.

To what extent is an intermediate school district responsible for PSA’s serving pupils whose parents reside outside of the intermediate school district where the PSA is located?

The PSA is a constituent district of the intermediate school district in which it is located. The intermediate school district has the same responsibility to the PSA as it does to ay other constituent district. It is not unusual for a public school district to serve pupils who come form other districts, including pupils whose parents live in another intermediate school district. The intermediate school district has the same obligation to pupils whose parents live elsewhere as it does to any other pupil legally enrolled by a constituent district.

Is there a need to certify PSA students for special education services and identify them as such on the enrollment count if the PSA is not planning to claim additional state funding or federal funding?

If “certify” refers to the process of identifying children who are suspected to have a disability under state or federal law, the response is yes. There is a need to certify irrespective of application or claim for additional state or federal funding.

Michigan, though the state educational agency, is responsible to ensure a free and appropriate public education for every student with a disability who is enrolled in its public school system. Since a PSA is a public school, it is bound by the some requirements as other public intermediate and local school districts within the state. The determination of a PSA to seek no state or federal funds related to special education does not exempt it from this obligation.

If a PSA contracts with a private entity to provide speech, psychological, and social work services: (a) must the credentials of the providers be the same as those employed by public schools in general; and (b) must the PSA submit its personnel inventory to the intermediate school district?

This response is intended to refer only to professional personnel related to “special education programs or services.”

In response to part “(a)” of the question, the answer is yes. Standards are articulated in the Revised Administrative Rules for Special Education and the rules governing different professional specialties.

In response to part “(b)” of the question, to meet federal reporting requirements prerequisite to receipt of federal funds requires reporting particular information about public school students and professional personnel to the federal government on an annual basis. The pertinent requirements are contained in 34 CFR 300.380 through 300.383. This information is collected through the Michigan Department of Education’s Special Education “December One Count” reporting process. This process is implemented through intermediate school district data collection procedures for constituent districts. If there are students with disabilities enrolled in a PSA, then the information pertaining to the personnel providing special education programs or services to those students must be reported as part of the “December One Count.”

For further information regarding special education, you may contact the MDE’s website at Special Education & Early Intervention Services or telephone 517-373-0923.