The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Regulations on School Finance and Accountability - Amendments to 603 CMR 10.00

Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
September 14, 2012

At the May 2012 Board of Elementary and Secondary Education meeting, the Board invited public comment on proposed amendments to the School Finance and Accountability regulations, 603 CMR 10.00. I will ask for a final vote on the amendments to the regulations at the September 25, 2012 Board meeting.

Background; Proposed Amendments

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education last amended these regulations in June 2006, clarifying reimbursements for special education under the then-recently enacted "circuit breaker" statute, G.L. c. 71B, § 5A. The current proposed amendments increase the threshold for extraordinary maintenance projects, clarify certain statutory provisions addressing pre-payments of special education expenses, and make certain technical corrections, as follows:

10.02 Definitions

Increases the threshold for extraordinary maintenance projects from $100,000 per project per school, to $150,000 per project per school. Revises other definitions for clarity and consistency.

10.07 Special Education Payments and Reimbursements

In 10.07(9)(d)(4), clarifies the pre-payment of special education tuition as allowed by G.L. c. 40, § 4E, and G.L. c.71, § 71D. This clarification should avoid future disputes between district and municipal officials regarding the prepayment of these expenditures across fiscal years.

Deletes the former 10.07(10) addressing direct payment by the Department of tuitions to approved private special education schools. Because special education expenses are now reimbursed differently, this provision is no longer relevant.

10.09 Transportation Reimbursement, Resident Students

Changes the reimbursement rate for low-income school choice and charter school transportation. The rate currently in the regulations (10.09(2)(c) and (d)) is $0.28 per mile. While the program is not currently funded, if funding occurs in the future, the rate will be consistent with the rate for parent-provided transportation outlined in the Special Education regulations (603 CMR 28.00).

Technical Changes Throughout

Deletes references to obsolete programs and clarifies other language.

The proposed amendments are necessary to give school officials the ability to fund needed maintenance projects and to clarify the interpretation of existing statutes.

Public Comments

We received two comments on 603 CMR 10.00 during the public comment period. In both cases, the recommendation would require a statutory change. The first concerns transportation that is subsidized by the municipality but is not eligible for state reimbursement because current law limits reimbursement to costs for transporting students who live more than 1-1/2 miles from their school. In addition this commenter stated that if the district runs fee-based transportation, it cannot charge a fee to students who are eligible for free and reduced price lunch. The commenter proposed reimbursing municipalities for providing transportation services to those eligible riders regardless of the distance between their residence and their school of attendance.

The other comment proposed reducing the threshold of costs for in-district students under the Special Education Circuit Breaker program. The commenter suggested reducing the threshold from the current four times statewide foundation to three times statewide foundation for in-district students, to provide an incentive for districts to create local programs before sending students out to costly day or residential programs.

Both of these proposals would require statutory changes and cannot be accomplished through regulation. Consequently, I am recommending no changes to the proposed amendments.

Enclosed are the final regulations with the changes indicated by underline. Also enclosed is a clean copy of the final regulations as they would appear if approved. I recommend that the Board adopt the regulations as presented. If you have any questions or require additional information, please contact Executive Director for School Finance and District Support, Jay Sullivan; or Deputy Commissioner Jeff Wulfson, or me.