DOE Private School Regulation Changes

Proposed Amendment to Funding Could Prove Detrimental to Private Schools Serving Students with Disabilities

Posted:  February 14, 2017 
Updated:  April 17, 2017
Updated:  May 16, 2017

Last Chance to Be Heard!   

The official comment period is over, but it is not too late to have your voice heard on this important issue!  Now is the time to remind the Governor how these changes will impact your child’s school and the quality of the education that they receive.  Please consider sending a letter or message to the Governor to express your concerns by May 26th. Download and customize a letter.  You can also submit your comments online.  (Use topic "Education;" subtopic "Special Education." )

We expect that the Board of Education will vote on these regulations at their next meeting on June 7, 2017.  Please consider attending to express your concerns to the Board. 


 NOTE:  The official comment period runs from March 6th to May 5th.  

Even if you previously submitted a letter to express your concern, make sure you take action and send a letter before the deadline to ensure your voice is heard directly as a part of the official Public Comment process. 


Background

On December 19, 2016, the New Jersey State Board of Education released proposed amendments to N.J.A.C. 6A:23A (Fiscal Accountability, Efficiency, and Budgeting Procedures) that will have a significant impact on the approximately 160 Approved Private Schools for Students with Disabilities (APSSD) and the estimated 10,000 students who currently attend those schools.  The proposed amendments outline a set of new accounting rules that will severely impact APSSDs’ pension, healthcare, travel, hiring, staff training, and tuition-setting.

What's at Stake

Autism New Jersey is concerned that the adoption of these proposed regulations without some changes will negatively affect the quality of the educational programming within APSSDs. With more than 50 specific proposed changes, a full analysis is beyond the scope of this write up. Here you can learn what some of the key concerns are and how to voice your concern to change the course of this proposal. 

If your child attends one of these 160 Private Schools, these proposed rules could have a harmful effect on approved private schools’ ability to continue serving your child.


Key Concerns

  1. Inadequate salaries needed to hire and retain qualified and specialized staff
  2. Insufficient amount of funds for critical professional development activities
  3. Restrictions on the use of privately fundraised dollars
  4. Inefficient and ineffective operational and administrative processes

All of these issues affect the financial sustainability of private schools and your children.

Recommendations

Autism New Jersey and others are actively advocating for changes to be made to the proposed code. In support of all private schools, our general recommendations include:

Pilot Project: DOE has set the full implementation date of July 1, 2017.  We strongly encourage that DOE pilot the new rules first with a select few schools to allow for time to work out any implementation issues. This would provide for the opportunity to address issues before a broader implementation with potentially widespread consequences. A pilot could help prevent undue administrative hardship and allow private schools time to prepare for a new chart of accounts and adjust their accounting practices, as necessary.  

Fiscal Code Advisory Council: As specific policies of the new code are implemented, there will be items that have substantial operational and fiscal impact and are open to interpretation. To ensure clarity and consistency among all of the stakeholders, we encourage the Department to establish such a council comprised of DOE officials, accounting firms, and approved private schools. This council would hear implementation concerns, attempt to address them, and identify means to resolve such discrepancies. 

Autism New Jersey has also highlighted additional specific concerns on behalf of smaller private schools that provide specialized Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) services for students with autism.  These schools offer a level of individualization, specialized teaching techniques, and more detailed data collection and accountability than can be provided within a public school.  Some of the proposed regulations could affect the services provided by these specialized staff.   Autism New Jersey encourages sensible flexibility in the regulations so that private schools can hire the experts they need to ensure meaningful educational benefit is maximized for each student while still maintaining financial viability.   

Take Action • Submit Your Comments!

The Department of Education’s public comment period is March 6 through May 5.   

Autism New Jersey submitted public testimony on April 5 to the State Board of Education.

 

You can submit your own.  We’ve prepared a sample letter for you to personalize in order to voice your concerns. 

Submit written comments by May 5, 2017, to:

Diane Shoener
Director, State Board of Education Office
New Jersey Department of Education
100 River View Executive Plaza
PO Box 500
Trenton, New Jersey 08625-0500

E-mail: chapter23A@doe.state.nj.us

Deadline:  May 5, 2017

For as long as is needed, Autism New Jersey will continue its partnership with other stakeholders and advocacy groups to recommend practical amendments that will ensure essential services, accountability and financial viability for these critical and specialized educational programs. We will post updates and ask you to contact our Helpline 800.4.AUTISM or information@autismnj.org with any questions.


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AUTISM NEW JERSEY
500 Horizon Drive, Suite 530 Robbinsville, NJ 08691
Phone: 609.588.8200; 800.4.AUTISM | Fax: 609.588.8858
Email: information@autismnj.org

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