U.S. Department of Education Differentiated Monitoring and Support Letters, Reports, and Findings

U.S. Department of Education Releases Update on Arkansas Monitoring; Noncompliance Continues in 8 out of 9 Areas Identified

July 5, 2023, U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs issued a “close-out letter” to Arkansas Division of Developmental Disabilities Services, regarding OSEP’s IDEA Part C Monitoring of Arkansas.

Although OSEP characterizes such letters as “close-out” letters, they are more status reports than close-out letters, since the latter infers close-out of all monitoring, rather than one of nine issues being closed out in this case, with eight of nine remaining in noncompliance.

U.S. Dept. of Education Releases Monitoring Close-Out Letters for Bureau of Indian Affairs, Louisiana, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas

U.S. Department of Education (U Office of Special Education Programs released Differentiated Monitoring and Support close-out letters under IDEA Part B for Bureau of Indian Education, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Texas, and under IDEA Part C for New Jersey, South Carolina, and Texas.

The letters were issued between 2021 and May 2023, however OSEP waited until the past two months to publicly release them on USDOE’s website.

They detail years of monitoring, corrective actions required by OSEP, continued noncompliance, and the states eventually satisfying the action required by OSEP. However, in states like North Carolina and Texas there are a few caveats. caveats.

U.S. Dept. of Education to Investigate VA Dept. of Education’s Response to Fairfax County Public Schools Civil Rights Violations; What Actions has VDOE Taken with “Similarly Situated” Districts?

United States Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs announced its continued investigation into Virginia Department of Education will include examining VDOE’s “response to the Department’s Office for Civil Rights findings that Fairfax County Public Schools failed or was unable to provide a free appropriate public education to thousands of students with services identified in the students’ individualized education programs during remote learning. Specifically, OSEP would like to learn about the actions the State has taken, or plans to take, with similarly situated districts in light of these findings.”

The announcement came in a May 12, 2023, letter from Valerie Williams, director of OSEP, to Lisa Coons, VDOE’s new superintendent of public instruction and is a follow up to OSEP’s February 17, 2023, letter to Coon’s predecessor Jillian Balow, which announced OSEP would be conducting additional monitoring activities, to include an on-site investigation. According to the May 12 letter, the on-site will occur during the week of September 25, 2023.

Virginia Remains Outlier as U.S. Dept. of Education Announces Close-Out of Monitoring in Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, and Arizona

March 27, 2023, U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) publicly released the status of various monitoring activities, citing closure of monitoring of Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, and Arizona, and expanded monitoring of Virginia.

USDOE announced monitoring of Hawaii in 2019; of Arizona, Florida, and Virginia in 2020; and of Delaware in 2021. USDOE closed out monitoring of four of the five states within one-to-three years.

In the case of Virginia, it is on track to take more than three years to come into compliance with Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA).

U.S. Dept. of Education Puts Virginia on Notice: Get into Compliance or Face Sanctions

***BREAKING NEWS***

Just weeks before Jillian Balow announced her resignation as Virginia Superintendent of Public Education, United States Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs put Virginia Department of Education on Notice: Get into compliance or face sanctions.

In a January 17, 2023, letter from USDOE OSEP to Balow (obtained today via a FOIA request), USDOE OSEP warned VDOE:

“If VDOE is unable to demonstrate full compliance with the IDEA requirements identified in OSEP’s monitoring report, this could result in the imposition of Specific Conditions on VDOE’s IDEA Part B grant award and could affect VDOE’s determination under section 616(d) of IDEA.”

U.S. Dept. of Education Finds Montana in Noncompliance with IDEA

“OSEP staff noted a discrepancy between the high levels of compliance reported by the State in its SPP/APR and actual implementation.”

~United States Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs

United States Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs has found the state of Montana in noncompliance with Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

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?