In November 2015, ISBE issued Guidance Document 15-9, available at http://www.isbe.net/spec-ed/pdfs/guidance-15-09-idea-pps-nonpublic.pdf, to provide guidance on the requirements of local school districts in IDEA child find activities, timely and meaningful consultations with representatives of nonpublic schools, and the provision of services to eligible students who attend nonpublic schools located within the local educational agencies (“LEA”). This guidance document consolidates and replaces information contained in those previously issued documents from ISBE on this topic.
In general, IDEA requires LEAs to provide a proportionate share of special education services to eligible students who are parentally placed in nonpublic schools within their LEA’s geographical boundaries. IDEA proportionate share expenditures must include, at a minimum, services to the students, which may include supplies, materials, and professional development for nonpublic staff in relation to the student services. However, administrative services and child find expenditures are not allowable as proportionate share services. ISBE’s interpretation of the proportionate share law has not changed since the publication dates of their prior guidances. Rather, Guidance 15-9 now contains an additional distinction with respect to “child find” responsibilities which LEAs need to be aware of going forward.
Each school district is responsible for locating, identifying, and evaluating all children with disabilities enrolled by their parents in nonpublic schools located in that school district. In other words, LEAs must complete initial evaluations and reevaluations of nonpublic students within their district boundaries regardless of whether or not the students are residents of the district.
If a student is attending a nonpublic school outside of the LEA of residence, the serving district, which is the LEA in which the nonpublic school is located, is responsible for child find, evaluations, and service provision. The cost of the child find activities, including evaluations, is not part of the nonpublic proportionate share obligation. Instead, the proportionate share funds are for providing special education services to IDEA-eligible nonpublic students.
This language, found in Guidance 15-9, has not changed any legal interpretations made from prior ISBE Guidances, except for a distinction made in their new Guidance with respect to “child find” responsibilities that is dependent upon the characterization of the private facility in which the student was unilaterally placed by their parents. If the private/parochial school where the student has been unilaterally placed by his/her parents does not serve students within the general population but instead could be characterized as a nonpublic special education school, then the student’s LEA of residence will retain responsibility for conducting any initial evaluation and reevaluations and not the serving district where the nonpublic special education school is located.
This distinction has been made to address a concern that the student’s LEA of residence would not likely want another district to determine eligibility and make any placement recommendation that would commit the LEA of residence to assume financial responsibility for a non-public special education placement that was previously made unilaterally by their parents.
Contact Jay Kraning with your inquiries regarding your child find obligations to unilaterally placed students outside of your school district.