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The 192nd General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Section 5A: Special education reimbursement program

[ Subsections (a) through (c) effective until February 24, 2020. For text effective February 24, 2020, see below.]

  Section 5A. (a) There is hereby established, subject to appropriation, a special education reimbursement program. Said program shall reimburse municipalities for the eligible instructional costs associated with implementing individual education plans, so-called, of students receiving special education services pursuant to this chapter. Said reimbursements shall be in addition to amounts distributed pursuant to chapter 70 and shall not be included in the calculation of base aid, as defined in said chapter 70, for any subsequent fiscal year. Said reimbursement shall not include costs incurred by municipalities for transportation. Charter schools shall receive reimbursements under this section in the same manner as districts. The department shall define, consistent with this section and in regulations it shall promulgate, those instructional costs associated with implementing individual education plans for pupils that shall be eligible for reimbursement under said program.

  (b) For the purposes of this section, the following words shall have the following meanings:--

  "Instructional costs'', shall include only those costs directly attributable to providing the special education services on the student's individual education plan, such as salary of educational personnel, salary of related services personnel, costs for specialized books, materials, or equipment, tuition costs, if the student is receiving services from other than the local public school, consultant costs if directly attributable to the student's instructional program, and instructional costs of extended day or year services if such services are a part of the individual education plan. Such costs shall be prorated as appropriate to reflect group activities or costs for part time services. Instructional costs shall not include transportation costs, administrative or overhead costs, the costs of adapting classrooms or materials that are used by more than one student, the costs of fringe benefits of personnel employed by the school district, nor the costs associated with evaluation, development of the individual education plan, or service coordination for the student with disabilities. Instructional costs for the purposes of this reimbursement program also shall not include the salary of personnel providing educational services when such services are not specially designed instruction for the student with disabilities.

  (c) Instructional costs eligible for reimbursement under the program shall be reported by a school district to the department in a form and manner as prescribed by the commissioner. For each such school district, the department shall review the report and approve those per pupil instructional costs that are eligible for reimbursement pursuant to the program within 30 days of submission. Based upon the approved costs, the department shall calculate the reimbursement due a municipality. The costs of programs shall be reimbursed at 75 per cent of all the approved costs that exceed 4 times the state average per pupil foundation budget, as defined in said chapter 70, for the previous fiscal year.

  Notwithstanding the foregoing, the reimbursement rate for students who have no father, mother, or guardian living in the commonwealth, and for any school age child placed in a school district other than a home town by, or under the auspices of, the department of transitional assistance or the department of children and families, shall be 100 per cent of all the approved costs that exceed 4 times the state average per pupil foundation budget.

[ Subsections (a) through (c) as amended by 2019, 132, Sec. 18 effective February 24, 2020. For text effective until February 24, 2020, see above.]

  (a) For the purposes of this section, the following words shall have the following meanings:

  "Approved costs threshold'', $45,793 in fiscal year 2020 and adjusted by the foundation inflation index, as defined in section 2 of chapter 70, in each subsequent year.

  "Instructional costs'', only those costs directly attributable to providing the special education services in the student's individual education plan, such as salary of educational personnel, salary of related services personnel, costs for specialized books, materials or equipment, tuition costs if the student is receiving services from other than the local public school, consultant costs if directly attributable to the student's instructional program and instructional costs of extended day or year services if such services are a part of the individual education plan; provided, however, that such costs shall be prorated as appropriate to reflect group activities or costs for part-time services; provided further, that "instructional costs'' shall not include transportation costs, administrative or overhead costs, the costs of adapting classrooms or materials that are used by more than 1 student, the costs of fringe benefits of personnel employed by the school district or the costs associated with evaluation, development of the individual education plan or service coordination for the student with disabilities; and provided further, that "instructional costs'' for the purposes of this reimbursement program shall not include the salary of personnel providing educational services when such services are not specially designed instruction for the student with disabilities.

  (b) There shall be, subject to appropriation, a special education reimbursement program. The program shall reimburse municipalities for the eligible instructional costs and for the cost of required out-of-district transportation associated with implementing individual education plans of students receiving special education services pursuant to this chapter. The reimbursements shall be in addition to amounts distributed pursuant to chapter 70 and shall not be included in the calculation of base aid, as defined in said chapter 70, for any subsequent fiscal year. Charter schools shall receive reimbursements under this section in the same manner as districts.

  The department shall promulgate regulations to define, consistent with this section, the costs associated with implementing individual education plans for pupils that shall be eligible for reimbursement under the program.

  (c) Instructional and transportation costs eligible for reimbursement under the program shall be reported by a school district to the department in a form and manner as prescribed by the commissioner. For each such school district, the department shall review the report and approve those per pupil instructional and transportation costs that are eligible for reimbursement pursuant to the program not less than 30 days after the date of submission. Based upon the approved costs, the department shall calculate the reimbursement due to a municipality. The costs of programs shall be reimbursed at 75 per cent of all the instructional and transportation costs that exceed the approved costs threshold.

  Notwithstanding the preceding paragraph, the reimbursement rate for students who have no parent or guardian living in the commonwealth and for any school age child placed in a school district other than a home town by, or under the auspices of, the department of transitional assistance or the department of children and families shall be 100 per cent of all instructional and transportation costs that exceed the approved costs threshold.

  (d) Districts shall notify the department within 30 days of any change in previously approved instructional costs, including but not limited to changes in a student's enrollment status or individual educational plan.

  (e) In preparing a budget recommendation for the subsequent fiscal year for consideration by the local appropriating authority, a school district shall project special education costs and enrollments, including per pupil instructional costs eligible for reimbursement under this program. The school committee's budget recommendation shall exclude any such instructional costs eligible for reimbursement under this program. Upon receipt of reimbursements paid under this program by the municipal treasurer, in the case of local school districts, or the regional district treasurer in the case of regional school districts, such amounts shall be recorded by the municipality or district as additional appropriations to the school committee, without any further action being required on the part of the local appropriating authority.

  (f) Reimbursements shall be made based on the previous year's per pupil instructional costs, as pursuant to subsection (c), in compliance with department of education audits and procedures. Reimbursements shall be made in 4 quarterly payments to coincide with the distribution of funds made available pursuant to said chapter 70. Each quarterly payment shall be equal to 25 per cent of the estimated reimbursements for the previous year's submissions, subject to appropriation.

  (g) Notwithstanding the foregoing, the commonwealth shall continue to pay to approved private residential schools sums authorized by this section on a direct payment basis at the request of a district and the private residential school to which that district sends a student whose tuition is partly reimbursable pursuant to this section.

[ Subsection (h) added by 2019, 132, Sec. 19 effective February 24, 2020.]

  (h) If in a fiscal year the amount appropriated pursuant to this section is less than the amount prescribed in subsection (c), then priority shall be given to instructional costs.