This advisory addresses tuition payments for students placed by districts in private approved day and residential special education schools (private schools) when the student is temporarily absent from the private school.
Temporary absences of students have prompted some districts to stop tuition payments to private schools, even when district and the private school expect the student to return to the private school placement. The Department is concerned with this small but growing problem because the unnecessary cessation of tuition payments may disrupt or delay a student's access to the special education services to which the student is entitled.
School officials should be aware that "circuit breaker" provisions in the School Finance and Accountability Regulations, see 603 CMR 10.07(5) through 10.07(11), authorize reimbursement for IEP program costs during the period of a student's temporary absence, provided the absence does not exceed 20 consecutive school days.1 In light of this provision, if the parties believe that the student will return, or is likely to return, to the private school within that time frame, districts should continue tuition payments during the student's absence from school. Through this mechanism, the student's placement remains stable and the student, school district, private school, and parent/legal guardian each benefit from the shared expectation.
Additionally, if a student is expected to be absent for at least 14 but not more than 20 consecutive school days, the district's obligation to provide home/hospital education services, may apply. See, 603 CMR 28.03(3)(c)2 Nothing bars a school district and private school from agreeing to a contract provision obligating the private school to provide special education services, compatible with the student's medical treatment, in the student's home/hospital setting during the student's temporary absence for medical reasons.
We hope this information is helpful. If you have any questions or require additional information, please contact Program Quality Assurance Services at the Department (781-338-3700).
1 See 603 CMR 10.07(9)(b).
2 See: 603 CMR 28.03 If the student's absence will continue beyond 20 days, the home/hospital provision continues to apply.
Last Updated: May 11, 2010
Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
75 Pleasant Street, Malden, MA 02148-4906
Voice: (781) 338-3000
TTY: (800) 439-2370
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