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Special Education Regulations, Early Intervention, Charter Schools
June 26, 2001

The much debated Chapter 14 Special Education regulations, which include Early Intervention for children ages 3-5, were published in the PA Bulletin on June 9. Some of the recommendations offered by advocates, the Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC) and the House Education Committee were incorporated, while others were not.

Parents and advocates were very concerned about the complexity of incorporating the federal regulations by reference. The final-form regulations do this, adding information in those areas where the federal regulations require greater detail, when the Commonwealth's statutes or court decisions require specific language and when practices in Pennsylvania are different from those in other jurisdictions. The Department said they will develop documents and websites that link federal and state regulations in a "side-by-side" format upon final publication.

The IRRC recommended that a definition of "student with a disability" be added for clarification, and this has been done. The IRRC's recommendation of clarifying the role of foster parents in obtaining special education or early intervention services has been followed. State and county approved foster parents will be able to act as parents for the purposes of Special Education. There was strong advocacy among all the stakeholders, the House Education Committee and the IRRC that current language requiring the IEP to be implemented within 10 days be restored. That change has been made. Class size restrictions, however, were not restored.

The Board of Education did not change the provision that a disciplinary exclusion of a student with a disability of 15 days or longer constituted a change in placement, triggering the convening of the IEP team. Nor did they change the provision that parents could no longer be represented by advocates at due process hearings. Parents must either represent themselves or hire attorneys.

The IRRC recommended revising the definitions of "early intervention services" and "mutually agreed-upon written arrangements." This has been done by inserting references to the Early Intervention Services System Act (11 P.S. 875-101 and 875-503) in defining these two terms. Also, language was modified to make the child find and public awareness and screening provisions more detailed for early intervention.

The Department of Education added Chapter 711, relating to charter school services and programs with disabilities. These final-form regulations specify how the Commonwealth, through the Department, will meet its obligation to ensure that charter schools comply with the IDEA and Section 504. Federal regulations have again been incorporated by reference. The regulations require that persons providing special education or related services to children with disabilities in charter schools have appropriate certification. They also prohibit a charter school from denying enrollment on the basis of a child's disability or need for special education or supplementary aids or service. A charter school may not discriminate in its admission policies or practices on the basis of intellectual ability, but may limit admission to a particular grade level or areas of concentration of the school and may establish reasonable criteria, which must be outlined in the school charter, to evaluate prospective students.

Further provisions cover maintenance of educational records and transfer of records with timelines, payment of special education services by children(s) school districts of residence, requirements for outreach to children with disabilities, and IEP and transportation requirements. Also, when the IEP team at a charter school places a child in another public agency, private school, or private agency, and the parents choose to keep their child enrolled in the charter school, the charter school is obligated to pay for that placement.

The Department's full response to comments on Chapter 14 is available from Peter H. Garland, Executive Director, State Board of Education, 333 Market St., Harrisburg, 17126, (717-787-3787) or TDD (717-787-7367). You may also contact Lynn Keltz or Lisa Lowrie for a copy of that response and for a copy of the Chapter 14 and Chapter 711 regulations as published in the PA Bulletin.

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