Sneak Preview: Oversight Needed for New York Special Education

January 31, 2013 | By Jerry Ashworth | Post a Comment

(The following was excerpted from an article in the Single Audit Information Service.) New York education officials have proposed reforms to improve the state’s oversight of special education programs in response to a New York Office of State Comptroller audit that found various fiscal concerns with the program. OSC reported that since 2003, its audits of special education providers have repeatedly found increasingly serious deficiencies in fiscal management, including cases of outright fraud.

The New York State Education Department oversees special education programs for students with disabilities between the ages of 3 and 21. School districts arrange for services, which can be provided by public entities (e.g., state-supported schools) or private special education providers. NYSED’s Special Education Quality Assurance Office monitors the providers to ensure compliance with federal requirements. To receive funding, providers must submit an annual consolidated fiscal report (CFR), and guidance is provided in the Consolidated Fiscal Report and Claiming Manual and the NYSED Reimbursable Cost Manual.

Because CFR data is self-reported, each special education provider is required to have an independent certified public accountant certify their financial statements and that the CFRs were prepared in accordance with applicable instructions. NYSED’s Rate-Setting Unit establishes rates paid to special education providers based on information contained in the CFRs on revenues, expenses, staffing and enrollment.

In its most recent audit, OSC found that NYSED had not assessed private special education providers since 2007. In addition, there is no system to ensure programmatic review of all providers on a cyclical basis, and that NYSED has reviewed only about one-third of providers — as CFR desk reviews only — in the last four years.

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