On July 24, 2018, the Illinois State Board of Education issued a memo to all Superintendents and Special Education Directors in Illinois. The memo relayed an important shift in the way IDEA flow-through and preschool grant funds will be allocated by ISBE. Currently, ISBE has been receiving federal IDEA funds and then allocating them to special education cooperatives, to school districts that aren’t members of a cooperative, and to certain charter schools. Some cooperatives were then allocating those IDEA funds to member districts, as subgrantees. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Special Education Programs, which enforces the IDEA and monitors IDEA funding allocations, has since informed ISBE that the IDEA flow-through and preschool grant funds cannot be granted to an entity beyond ISBE’s initial grant to the local education agency (e.g., the cooperative).

The net effect is that in 2019-2020, all IDEA grants will be granted by ISBE directly to individual school districts, and not to special education cooperatives. Individual school districts still are entitled to use the IDEA funds to purchase services from cooperatives, however. And in light of the change, cooperatives will need to review their Articles of Joint Agreement and policies to determine if any amendments are appropriate or necessary. Likewise, in conjunction with their final 2018-2019 expenditure report, cooperatives will need to submit an agreed breakdown of any IDEA fund carryover that will be apportioned to their member districts in 2019-2020.

This change could have significant implications for special education cooperatives and their member districts, and we understand ISBE may have additional guidance in the future. Contact your counsel to discuss this procedural change’s impact on your operations.