MACo: Let Local School Boards Maintain Autonomy During Prolonged Closures

MACo Policy Associate Drew Jabin yesterday submitted testimony to the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee to oppose both SB 209 Prolonged School Closure – Extension of Education Services and SB 300 Special Education – Learning Continuity Plan – Requirement. SB 209 would create statewide uniform procedures for special education services during periods of prolonged school closures and SB 300 would mandate local school boards to provide each eligible student with internet access and access to any electronic device necessary for participating in the IEP program during school closures.

From the MACo Testimony:

MACo recognizes the desire to create accommodations during times of school closures, and
each county school board and leadership surely takes such matters seriously. However,
SB 209 would substitute a one-size-fits-all state policy for that local judgment. Additionally,
it would potentially place a costly mandate on school systems and county governments to
carry out this new uniform state policy to provide special education students an extension
of educational services regardless of whether the student has completed all graduation
requirements.

Also from MACo Testimony: 

SB 300 would mandate local school boards to provide each eligible student with internet
access and access to any electronic device necessary for participating in the IEP program. The
state funding for public schools is set via a formula. Adding new cost components to the
required school program belies the lengthy debates regarding these adequacy figures. So,
counties have no choice but to support these new costs —competing for limited local funds
against school construction, public safety, roadway maintenance, and other essential public
services. If federal funds are a potential resource for the services envisioned in SB 300,
legislation to prioritize these functions as a part of locally developed plans could be a more
appropriate state-local partnership.

Local school systems work to meet the unique needs of each student through individualized
services, and develop responses to school closures and other factors accordingly. SB 300
upends this local governance with a rigid state policy, triggering unknown costs without
accompanying resources.

Follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2021 legislative session on MACo’s Legislative Tracking Database.

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