Subject to appropriation the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education shall develop and administer a discretionary grant pilot program to provide monies to school districts to develop cost-effective and high quality models of in-district educational services and supports for students with disabilities currently enrolled in out-of-district programs and for students with disabilities identified by the district at risk for placement in more restrictive out-of-district programs. The goal of the grant program shall be for school districts to develop high quality, cost-effective programs that educate children in the communities in which they live and promote access to general education settings and maximize opportunities to be educated with their non-disabled peers. The pilot program will reflect the diversity of the Commonwealth’s schools, and will be limited to no more than six school districts, including two rural, two suburban and two urban school districts. The pilot demonstration program will run for at least three and no more than four years. The department shall issue a RFP no later than three months after the start of the first fiscal year to be disseminated statewide to all local school districts.
Each school district shall receive a grant to be used to design, implement and evaluate the in-district inclusive program. School districts may contract with private schools, collaboratives and consultants, including but not limited to higher education faculty, to provide consultation and programmatic expertise, support, and services necessary to develop capacity to serve students within the district and also provide these students with access to general education settings and maximum opportunities to be educated with their nondisabled peers. Funds can additionally be used for professional development and related costs such as cost of substitutes, staff training, staff planning time and materials and technology. Funds may not be used to pay for salaries for personnel employed or contracted by the school district in programs currently operating in the district.
The first year of the grant pilot shall be devoted exclusively to planning, including, but not limited to involving parents from the community. The second, third, and fourth years shall be devoted to implementation and evaluation. The department shall identify an evaluator at the outset of the program to design the evaluation plan, establish the methodology, and collect data from all the pilot programs to document and evaluate planning costs and requirements, efficacy, operational successes and challenges, student outcomes, and cost effectiveness.
There shall be an advisory committee which shall assist the department in developing and implementing this grant program. Members of the advisory committee shall include the commissioner of the department of developmental services or designee, the commissioner of the department of mental health or designee, and the commissioner of the mass rehabilitation commission or designee, and one person selected by each of the following organizations: the Massachusetts Administrators for Special Education, the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents, the Massachusetts Organization of Educational Collaboratives, the Massachusetts Association of 766 Approved Private Schools, the Massachusetts Advocates for Children, the Federation for Children with Special Needs, and the Disability Law Center and a representative of an Institution of Higher Education involved in inclusive educator preparation.
The department and the advisory committee shall report to the house and senate committees on ways and means and the joint committee on education on the status of the project annually on August 31, with a final report at the conclusion of the demonstration which reports findings on the efficacy of the pilot programs and makes recommendations to support high quality cost-effective in-district programs statewide, including but not limited to any recommendations on mechanisms for reimbursing special education costs.
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