Dear VDOE: Why Did Sam Hollins Include Incorrect Information in Her Response to U.S. DOE’s Monitoring Letter on Virginia?

September 2, 2020: Article published.

January 24, 2023: Article republished with new introduction (see italics below).

Almost three years ago, U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs issued a Differentiated Monitoring and Support report on Virginia. In response, VDOE issued a ten-page letter from Superintendent of Special Education and Student Services Samantha Hollins, which included false and misleading information.

In the years that have followed, noncompliance has continued in Virginia, as has Samantha’s failure to release a public statement correcting and/or apologizing for the false information in her previous ten-page letter. Within the last two months, VDOE’s failures made the news again when Office for Civil Rights issued two letters of finding for two Virginia agencies: Fairfax County Public Schools and Southeastern Cooperative Educational Programs.

The big question now: Will USDOE eventually pull funding for Virginia as it did for Texas, when Texas hit its post-DMS release three-year mark?

U.S. Dept. of Ed. Finds Arkansas and Michigan in Noncompliance with IDEA

United States Department of Education (USDOE) Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) has found the states of Arkansas and Michigan in noncompliance with Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

January 12, 2023, OSEP issued differentiated monitoring support (DMS) reports for both states. In addition to including findings of noncompliance, the reports include required actions and timelines by which those actions must occur.

Virginia Dept. of Education’s Noncompliance Continues; Blows Through U.S. Dept. of Education’s 90-Day Compliance Deadlines

November 11, 2022: Article first published. November 19, 2022: Article updated to include items 1a, b, c, and d, which are cited on page four of USDOE’s September 1, 2022, letter to VDOE.

Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) remains in noncompliance of federal regulations.

September 1, 2022, United States Department of Education issued another a letter to VDOE that addresses VDOE’s continued failures. This letter was not provided to the public, nor were the similarly critical letters USDOE sent on February 8, 2022, and March 16, 2022. All three letters were obtained via Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. Special Education Action received the September 1, 2022, letter yesterday, November 10, 2022.

Virginia’s Noncompliance Continues; U.S. Dept. of Education States More Concerns Exist

June 23, 2020, United States Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs determined Virginia Department of Education is in noncompliance with federal regulations and issued a DMS report.

For each issue cited, OSEP required an action to address the issue—and these actions had 90-day timelines associated with them.

Almost two-and-a-half years later, issues remain, the DMS report has yet to be closed out, and more concerns continue to rise.

U.S. Dept. of Education Finds Virginia at Fault for Continued Noncompliance

The United States Department of Education determined the Virginia Department of Education “has not demonstrated correction of all the noncompliance identified in USDOE’s June 23, 2020, Differentiated Monitoring and Support monitoring letter and that it remains “concerned about the volume and nature of the concerns raised by .”

February 8, 2022, USDOE sent VDOE its response to VDOE’s corrective action information.

Special Education Action obtained the February 8, 2022, letter yesterday in response to a FOIA request submitted to VDOE.

Texas and Virginia: Too Big to Fail

Texas and Virginia vary in physical size and population, but one thing they have in common is they are both too big to fail children — especially those who need special education supports.

Texas is toward the top of the list of U.S. states when it comes to federal, state, and local revenue, but Virginia has Fairfax County, a school district with one of the largest budgets and per pupil spending in the United States.

And yet . . . They’ve both failed.

In the case of Texas, the United States Department of Education’s (USDOE) Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) just announced that USDOE will be reducing funds provided to Texas and putting specific conditions in place.

Will OSEP follow with Virginia?

U.S. Dept. of Ed Investigates Virginia Dept. of Ed

June 23, 2020, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) released its report on an on-site monitoring visit conducted by OSEP on May 28 and 29 of 2019.

Problems identified by OSEP relate to complaints and due process, mediation, independent education evaluations, and overall monitoring failures.

It is curious that just two days later, OSEP released its “2020 Determination Letters on State Implementation of IDEA”, which lists Virginia as “Meets Requirements”.

How is it possible for VDOE to receive this rating?