Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Collaboratives try to Distract the Legislature by Focusing on C766 Schools.

Thank you to Larry Sauer, Guest Blogger
Vice President for Student Program and Services
Cardinal Cushing Centers

In recent months Educational Collaboratives have been under a great deal of scrutiny because a few collaborative directors have taken advantage of the lack of regulation and financial accountability to enrich themselves at the expense of special education students. Like our Chapter 766 schools, Cardinal Cushing School and St. Coletta’s Day School, Educational Collaboratives serve school districts by providing special education services to low incident populations as well as provide districts with a variety of other services including transportation, IT services, and Medicaid Reimbursement services. Unlike our schools, Educational Collaboratives have been largely unregulated and financially unaccountable.

The concerns uncovered by the State Auditor’s Office at the Merrimac Educational Collaborative and a few other collaboratives have brought this lack of regulation and accountability to the attention of the legislature and they are in the process of taking action to increase regulations and accountability for the collaboratives. Senate Bill 2101, which will be taken up in the Senate today is intended to address the recent scandal involving the alleged misuse of millions of taxpayer dollars by officials of the Merrimack Education Collaborative. The bill will provide badly needed oversight of the governance and financial activities of education collaboratives to assure public accountability and transparency.

Unfortunately, the collaboratives are fighting back against these efforts by trying to shift the legislature’s focus away from the collaboratives and on to schools like ours. Two proposed amendments, 13 and 14 to Senate 2101 are stacked against C766 schools like ours. The proposed amendments seek to direct attention away from the lack of accountability in education collaboratives and, instead, conduct reviews of C766 schools by commissions dominated by education collaboratives and public schools.

There are a number of problems with the proposed amendments:

• Amendment 13 calls for a study of the effectiveness of C766 schools, collaboratives and public schools by a commission dominated by collaboratives and public schools, but with not one representative from C766 schools.

• Amendment 14 calls for a review of the tuition setting process and salaries in C766 schools by a different commission with 14 members – and only one representative from C766 schools.

• Amendment 14 calls for the commission to obtain input from groups ranging from education collaboratives and human service providers – but not from C766 schools.

We urge you and all families, school staff, Boards of Directors, and advocates to call your State Senator today to ask them not to support amendments 13 and 14 to Senate bill 2101 sponsored by Senator’s Tarr and Baddour.

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