Accounting and Auditing

Special Education Costs and the New Circuit Breaker Law

The new "Circuit Breaker" law reimbursing Special Education costs is scheduled to take effect in FY'03. The law is designed to reimburse districts for high cost students. The law reimburses instructional and tuition costs for In District and Out of District students. For In District students, districts will be reimbursed 80% of instructional costs that exceed three times the Statewide Foundation Budget. Out of District costs will be reimbursed at 65% of tuition costs that exceed four times the Statewide Foundation Budget (The Statewide Foundation Budget for FY'02 is expected to be approximately $7,000/pupil.) Transportation costs are not included and are reimbursed under Ch 71B sec 14.

In addition to the Chapter 70 school aid that cities, towns, and regional school districts receive to fund schools annually, the Department also pays a portion of tuition costs for Special Education residential students This "aid" is sent directly to the private school on behalf of the district. Under the new law, the new reimbursement program replaces this aid.

In the past we have not compiled the amount spent annually on behalf of a district's residential students but with the new changes in reimbursement coming, we felt this data would assist districts wanting to analyze the data to assess the impact the new law will have locally.

We have also put together an excel spreadsheet with the most current pricing approved by the Operational Service Division, Purchased Services Unit. This unit sets rates for all private special education schools. Using this spreadsheet, local officials can estimate their FY'03 reimbursement. Please note that the Purchased Services Unit does not price collaborative programs. The members of the collaborative usually set tuition rates. Collaborative programs located in public school settings also serving students without disabilities will be considered "in-district" and collaborative programs in separate settings serving only students with disabilities will be considered "out-of-district."

Throughout the year we will be promulgating regulations outlining procedural and documentation requirements as well as publishing a series of administrative advisories to clarify policy issues.

Last Updated: August 1, 2002

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Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
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