Public Comments for 01/29/2021 Appropriations - Elementary and Secondary Subcommittee
HB2117 - Children's Services Act; funds expended special education programs.
Last Name: Carter Melin Organization: My child with Autism who has been served by the Comprehensive Services Act (CSA) and the Children's Services Act (CSA) Locality: Norfolk, Virginia

I am providing vehement objection to any and all funding of House Bill 2117 for the Children's Services Act (CSA). I have four and a half years of personal experience including dispute with this law involving my 17 year old child, who has Autism. This law puts funding, decisions, and authority in the hands of the Community Policy Management Teams, the Family Assessment Planning Teams, and the City Councils and County Boards of Supervisors. This is a clear and flagrant misrepresentation of Special Education, as the educators do not administer the law. The only Special Education Law in the United States recognized by the Supreme Court of the United States is the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). All legal record for the child is contained by IDEA. All Due Process hearings are contained within IDEA. By creating the CSA, Virginia has artificially defined a group of IDEA children, and has discriminated against them by informing parents that somehow this different and unequal law is official and necessary. Nothing could be farther from the truth. IDEA serves the most severely disabled children in Virginia, the least severely disabled, and an infinite range in between. The CSA, including HB 2117 is being misrepresented to parents because it is only beneficial to the schools and corporations in the Private Special Education industry and not ultimately to the child. This results in extraordinary burden of cost on taxpayers, as there is the unnecessary CSA administration. In Norfolk, the contracted CSA private schools are more than $50,000 per year, while there are other private special education schools in the state and region which have much lower tuition. But the highest tyranny is not the cost. The worst of it is that the highest executive authority for the IDEA in the commonwealth of Virginia for Special Education, VDOE Assistant Superintendent Dr. Samantha Hollins, is being subverted by the Virginia House, Senate, Governor, Attorney General, and Taxpayers, because the entire State Government believes other agencies should have her funds and authority through the CSA. As I stated I have been in a dispute with the CSA, and this is because my child was contracted and placed by a CSA committee to a private special education school licensed by the VDOE. This school utilizes restraint and seclusion, has a seclusion room, no outdoor playground, and is designated as being able to take sex offenders, severe maladaptive behavior children, psychotic children, juvenile offenders and many other scary designations. Would you want that to happen to your children??? Financially, it is extraordinarily easy for Virginia to fix this problem. Step one is shut down the CSA, step two is put the education funding into the State Education Agency (SEA) and Local Education Agency (LEA) under the IDEA. Then, my local School board, Special Education department and IEP team would have the money and the authority to fund private or public school for special education with the IEP team. HB2117 denies Equal access to IDEA, partially defunds all IDEA agencies by competing for scarce state funds and provides the FAPT, which is not admissible in IDEA due process decisions. There is no legal reason for the CSA to exist, so you shouldn't fund it. It hurts children by segregating them out of district, where the typical peers and opportunities are no longer available. You simply don't need two laws to serve one child.

Last Name: Milling Organization: The Arc of Virginia, disAbility Law Center, NAMI Virginia and CA Human Services (with permission) Locality: Richmond

On behalf of The Arc of Virginia, disAbility Law Center, NAMI Virginia and CA Human Services: Summary Statement: We must oppose both HB 2117 & SB 1313 in their current form, and have proposed a viable amendment to patrons to address the strong concerns over continued inequity. Virginia already demonstrates it’s belief that CSA State funds should pay for additional services needed for students with more complex needs. Unfortunately, the bills as written continue to reinforce the inequitable requirement that in order for a student with complex needs to have their additional services funded, they must be willing to be segregated. Facts Regarding OPPOSITION We are not proposing the implementation of JLARC Recommendation #4, this session. We strongly believe, as written, HB 2117 & SB 1313 may result in an unsuccessful implementation of JLARC Recommendation #3. We are not proposing anything that cuts off funding to private day schools. We no longer oppose the 12-month cap for a transition period, a time in which funding in both public and private day schools may be necessary, we understand the need for that cap. We are opposed only based on the lack of CSA funding for ongoing post-transition services necessary for a student’s success in the public school system. Facts Regarding Post Transition Services Proposal As proposed, ongoing POST Transition Services would be limited ONLY to that Student AND ONLY for those services identified during the Transition Period as necessary for that child’s success in public school ---- eliminating any concerns about CSA funds going into the general budget of any public school division. Ongoing services after transition do NOT add to Virginia’s costs over what would have been spent had the child not transitioned out of private day school back to their public school. If a student’s needs could be met by the existing funding in public schools, that student would/should not have been placed in a private day school in the first place -- therefore demonstrating the need for ongoing funding for services after transition. Why this position on the legislation is necessary: It is collectively our strong opinion that, without ensuring ongoing availability of funding for this specific student population after transition, Virginia is putting students, families, and our local school divisions at a disadvantage -- and very likely setting them up for failure. Additionally, the unsuccessful implementation of JLARC Recommendation #3 puts at risk any future implementation of other recommendations -- and implementing those additional recommendations should be something towards which all stakeholders are actively working. Thank you, with permission of those organizations listed, Tonya Milling Executive Director of The Arc of Virginia

Last Name: Hopkins Locality: Roanoke

I support HB 2117 which supports collaboration, partnerships, protections for ALL children, and transitions. This bill supports the JLARC recommendations and this is a great step forward. I am curious if it actually affects any of the legislators deciding this personally like it does my family? Or my friends’ families? Do you have to decide to put every ounce of self-respect you have as a human being in the pit of your gut to beg, literally beg the public school system to help your child communicate? Y’all can get tied up in schematics of who has what in whose bill. Why this one?! It actually benefits the students not the public school, CSA, not the ARC. Which bill actually has parent support? Genuine parent support? This one! We already have a stacked dispute resolution system that the school districts have a 97% win ratio. It is, almost, what is the point to even ask y’all to do anything anymore if you don’t listen to the people you are supposed to represent? Y’all are more worried about keeping your funders happy than the people that voted to put you in the office you have. Anyone with a bad comment about this bill isn’t a parent. They are with the schools, or special interest groups to get the money. That is telling, isn't it!? Remember your decision today actually impacts real families especially mine. I urge you, also, to vote for Senator Mason’s Children Services Act, S.B. 1313, and keep funding at the state level for private day schools that serve the special needs community. Virginia’s most vulnerable children and families must be protected. questions: emhopi@msn.com

Last Name: Asip Organization: The Virginia Council of Administrators of Special Education (VCASE) Locality: Powhatan

Thank you Madam Chair and Members of the Committee, I am the Policy and Legislative Chair of the Virginia Council of Administrators of Special Education (VCASE). Our more than 400 members work directly with local CSA offices in addressing special education placements in private school settings as well as serving our 164,000 students with disabilities in our public schools through participation in IEP meetings. We appreciate Del. VanValkenburg's addressing JLARC recommendations included in HB2117. VCASE has long advocated the flexibility of CSA funds that could be used not only to assist students in transitioning back to public from private placements but also and more critically needed to intervene with CSA-funded services BEFORE consideration of private placement. We believe that elements in Sen. Sutterlein's bill including our recommendation for enhanced services to provide students services to keep them in the least restrictive environment of the public schools PRIOR to expensive private school placements. We do not require a year of study by a work group to replicate CSA funding flexibility that was permissible and effective back in 2010. We appreciate the work Del. VanValkenburg and Sen. Mason have done in response to our suggestions. Thank you! Mike Asip

Last Name: Niznik Organization: Blue Ridge Autism and Achievement Center Locality: Bedford county

I support HB 2117 which supports collaboration, partnerships, protections for ALL children and transitions. This bill supports the JLARC recommendations and this is a great step forward! My son Kingsley needs BRAAC because he can not do virtual learning with his disability and attention span. He can not be in public school as well. He can only be helped one on one with his serves BRAAC is highly trained to give him.

Last Name: Brandon Organization: BRACC Locality: Nathalie

I support HB 2117 which supports collaboration, partnerships, protections for ALL children and transitions. This bill supports the JLARC recommendations and this is a great step forward! My son twin boys needs BRAAC because they are stage 3 autistic. The public schools could not help them. Since being at BRAAC my boys can get the therapies they need. Since being at this school I have seen drastic improvements. This school has been a life saver for my boys.

Last Name: Morris Locality: Virginia Beach, VA

My son Ethan is not a neurotypical child. He has a severe form of autism. He is 11 years old. He cannot speak, and while very intelligent, he has trouble interacting in the world in the way a “typical” child is able. He doesn’t live in a world that makes sense to him in the same way it does to you or I. His world, while it may be the same that you and I share, is quite different. Entropy and chaos replace for him that which control and order reside in ours. Alienation and loneliness stalk him, even in a room of those who love him, since he cannot express his thoughts or feelings to them, not they to him, in any effectual way. Respite is found in behaviors that other children label as “odd” or “weird”. Flapping of his hands, or bouncing on a yoga ball with more dexterity than most gymnasts, replace “normal” childhood activities like playing video games with friends or having a sleepover. My son in the care of the wonderful professionals at Plan Bee Academy and has made more progress than we thought he could. His use of a device to communicate has improved greatly, his behaviors have decreased, his aptitude more fully realized. Its not been without hard work on his part, but with far greater volumes of effort from the staff. They teach the hardest of our little ones. Those that others have long since abandoned and given up on as “not worth it”, or “incapable”. Each tiny progress is another of Ethan’s victory songs, lifted up by the voices of those who have struggled alongside of him every step of the way. His mother and I sat in tiny chairs, in a crowded auditorium last winter, and watched him ring a tiny little jingle bell, on a very chaotic, gorgeously full stage of his classmates, just staring out into the audience with this brilliant luminescence of joy beaming from him. Most parents would have been laughing at the discombobulation of the kids, or winced at the cacophony of a dozen little angelic voices with no semblance of harmony, but not us. We cried. Not pretty little tears, or delicately hidden sniffled weepings. No, full on crying, lost in the warmth of his smile, and the totally off-rhythm shaking of a bell to music we couldn’t even hear. Because for one instant, he wasn’t an autistic kid, he was just a kid. And while he may still never have a sleepover or a best friend to share his secrets with, in that moment he was with his classmates, the closest thing he has ever had to friends, on that stage. A kid, who for the first time in his life got to be in a Christmas “play”. That moment, for him, and for us, represents so plainly what places like Plan Bee are all about. They aren’t about helping “Autistic” kids, or making “Special Needs” childrens’ futures brighter. They aren’t, because they don’t see them that way. Places like that, and people like them work every day to make our childrens’ lives better and futures brighter because………..they are KIDS, and they deserve the chance for a better life, no matter its degree.

Last Name: Beheler Organization: Blue Ridge Autism and Achievement Center Locality: Botetourt County

"I support HB 2117 which supports collaboration, partnerships, protections for ALL children and transitions. This bill supports the JLARC recommendations and this is a great step forward! My son needs BRAAC because he was removed from by the public school system due to behaviors and they couldn’t educate him. Since attending BRAAC, my son has been able to learn at a his own pace and not get overwhelmed in large classroom. He has trained staff to help him navigate obstacles and teach him in his own unique learning style. He has made great strides both academically and behaviorally. During the summer, he was able to return to school because BRAAC knew the challenges these children face with routine changes. It negatively affects every aspect of his life not having a structured daily routine. Public schools still aren’t able to offer 5 days a week locally. Without this private day school, I am certain that my son would be in a residential facility. BRAAC provides so much more than an education. Public schools aren’t capable of providing my son his unique educational and social needs. Grateful for private day schools, Amanda Beheler

Last Name: Elechi Organization: BLUE RIDGE AUTISM AND ACHIEVEMENT CENTER ( BRAAC) Locality: ROANOKE COUNTY

My name is Uchenna Elechi, I am a Physical Therapist and the mother of a 20 year old man on the Autism Spectrum. We live in Roanoke County. I am writing to SUPPORT HB2117 which supports collaboration, partnerships, and protections for all Children and transitions.. This bill supports the JLARC recommendations and this is therefore a great step forward. In 2003 at the age of 3 my son Chukie was diagnosed with Autism. We got the diagnosis and quickly realized that there was no help, no plan and no quick fix for what ails our son. We were advised to get him into the Roanoke county preschool which we did. To their credit, his first classroom teacher and Aide loved him , but didn’t know how to help him; more so with 11 other kids in the classroom. And so our son spent much of his school day restrained in a “ high chair”. After many agonizing months of searching for help for our son who at this age was completely non verbal, did not make eye contact, appeared to be unaware of self, lacked the ability to interact with us or his peers, and was prone to fits of outbursts and tantrums we heard about BRAAC! AND WHAT A LIFE SAVER THAT HAS BEEN. In the 16 years since then, Chukie has benefited tremendously from the intense one on one ABA therapies he has received and continues to receive. He has been taught things as simple as making a thumbs up 👍🏾 sign , to writing his name, appropriate social behaviors ,interactions with others and self regulation albeit with prompts as needed; He continues to work on communication with the help of a speech augmentation device, as well as on building skills that hopefully will help him to transition out of school soon, allow him secure supported employment and exist as a productive member of his community. I therefore implore you to please support this HOUSE BILL 2117 . Thank you for taking the time to read this, Uchenna Elechi.

Last Name: Ingerson Locality: Roanoke County

I support HB 2117 which supports collaboration, partnerships, protections for ALL children and transitions. This bill supports the JLARC recommendations and this is a great step forward! My son/daughter needs BRAAC because in 2010, my family was in crisis. At the time, our three-year old with autism (and a severe intellectual ability), Kaedan, was in a public school preschool program. His behaviors grew worse and out of control. Kaedan urinated and defecated on our floors. He stripped both at home and in public (Yes, he has been naked in Kroger). He screamed so loud we wore ear plugs. He woke at night, jumped on the floors loudly, and kicked holes in the walls. He bit family members frequently. Frankly, my wife and I were tired, frustrated, isolated, desperate, and losing it mentally. The public school had no answers. Our saving grace was BRAAC. They trained us in applied behavior analysis. They worked with our son intensely. They committed to programming a public school simply can never match (and I say that as a public school secondary teacher). He quickly became potty-trained. He learned language to express his needs. His behaviors improved. I urge you to vote for Senator Mason’s Children Services Act, S.B. 1313, and keep funding at the state level for private day schools that serve the special needs community. Virginia’s most vulnerable children and families must be protected. If you have any questions, I'd be happy to speak with you (540-915-0604). Sincerely, Mark L. Ingerson 4609 Great Glen Drive Salem, Va 24153

Last Name: Crush Organization: Blue Ridge Autism Achievement Center Locality: Vinton

I support HB2117 which supports collaboration, partnerships. Protection for ALL children and transitions. My son needs BRAAC because he is on the autism spectrum and requires 1:1 throughout his day. He has behaviors daily that BRAAC staff know how to handle and keep him safe. He is in a safe nurturing environment with well trained and qualified staff who know how to met his individual needs and provide family support as well. Thank you The Crush Family

Last Name: Firebaugh Organization: BRAAC and Special Ed Day Schools Locality: Roanoke

I support HB 2117 which supports collaboration, partnerships, protections for ALL children and transitions. This bill supports the JLARC recommendations and this is a great step forward! My brother NEEDS BRAAC and I know all families feel this way about their special education day schools. At BRAAC they understand my brothers needs. They understand his communication device and how to show him how to use it to reduce his frustrations. BRAAC understand when a 12 year old is still working on toilet training. BRAAC understands how to reduce self injurious behavior. BRAAC understands how important the team approach is to my brothers success with his activities of daily living. Please vote for this bill so my brother can remain in an educational environment that meets his unique, individualized, educational and behavioral needs. In order for him to be successful he needs to continue to participate in an intensive autism program with highly trained staff and receive 1:1 intensive ABA in a year round school... as do all of the children that are thriving in this type of school. Please support HB2117

Last Name: Miller Organization: BRAAC and Special Ed Day Schools Locality: Roanoke

I support HB 2117 which supports collaboration, partnerships, protections for ALL children and transitions. This bill supports the JLARC recommendations and this is a great step forward! If you do not have a child with the needs of an intensive educational program like the BRAAC offers, then I would ask you to take my word for it and support this bill. This is a REAL NEED in our community! My son is nonverbal and uses a communication device to speak. His ability to communicate needs to be strengthened in order for him to have meaningful dialog with his peers and adults in school, at home and in the community. My son also has self injurious behaviors that need intervention and also he needs help working on his activities of daily living. The BRAAC offers him the services he needs so he can continue to receive the intensive behavior plan simultaneously, in order to meet his needs and work towards accomplishing these goals. My sons school is filled with children just like him that need the support of BRAAC and these kids and our families need YOUR support of passing this bill.

Last Name: Keith Organization: Blue Ridge Autism and Achievement Center Locality: Buena vista

I support HB 2117 which supports collaboration, partnerships, protections for ALL children and transitions. This bill supports the JLARC recommendations and this is a great step forward! My daughter needs BRAAC because not only does she love Braac Roanoke and the technicians she is with. She has made progress that many doctors believed was not possible. She has really opened up and is starting to speak because of her technicians at school take the time to really get to know her and understand her. Without a school like Braac I fear she will be back in public school where she set for an entire school year not making progress where they did not have high hopes or expectations for her. So she was essentially taught that she could escape school because they never had her comply with instructions. Because this behavior was reinforced in public school...it continued into the hope. It became dangerous to take my daughter anywhere and she could not interact with her baby brother because she would not comply with instructions. Now that she is at Braac she is flourishing...she is able to be in public. Her behavior is more compliant. She is learning to play with others. Her future looks brighter with Braac in our forefront. PLEASE help us to make sure her future is still bright.

Last Name: Whitesell Locality: Campbell

I support HB 2117 which supports collaboration, partnerships, protections for ALL children and transitions. This bill supports the JLARC recommendations and this is a great step forward! Our daughter needs BRAAC because it is the only option that provides a FAPE given her unique needs. Our daughter failed to make meaningful progress, and in fact REGRESSED, in the public school setting in both academic and life skills over a three year period. Although our daughter could read and speak, she lacked the ability to use her language skills functionally, and to demonstrate understanding of appropriate behaviors. The public school discontinued autism consultation and therapies even as her abilities declined. Upon the recommendation of multiple developmental specialists, we explored more intensive educational settings. BRAAC was able to meet our daughter's unique needs and to increase her functional communication skills greatly, despite the sudden onset of intractable epilepsy just prior to enrollment. BRAAC met our daughter where she was and developed a truly INDIVIDUALIZED educational plan for her, instead of trying to make her fit into a one size fits all program that did not provide the one on one instruction that she required. While we believe that the public school is making progress to meet the needs of more students than in decades past, it is not capable of meeting the highly specialized needs of some students with autism, and some other educational needs. BRAAC provides one on one instruction with highly trained staff that develop and implement a program for our daughter, tracks her progress, and regularly modifies and fine tunes the program based on progress and interpretation of data. Furthermore, parents are provided with multiple avenues to be involved in a meaningful manner, which will provide the greatest chance of transfer of learned skills and behaviors. For our daughter, it included gathering relevant medical updates during frequent meetings, and tracking behavior, skill progress, and medical events when medications were changed. This was especially helpful when seizures climbed to over 100 per day at one point. Safety measures were put in place and we were able to have clear data when medications had an adverse or positive effect on learning. Finally, BRAAC provided in-home and in-community training for our daughter with us to address real life challenges. In the community, I was frequently unable to take our daughter into many settings with a reasonable degree of safety. She would scream, scratch, hit, and throw herself down, sometimes near sharp shelves or when crossing parking lots. I struggled with her unbuckling and moving around in the car to hit younger siblings. There were multiple occasions where I had to pull off the side of a busy highway to get her under control. BRAAC developed plans with us for situations like those, and also routines for home such as a morning routine that would help address her inappropriate behaviors that were causing her to be late for school. BRAAC sent staff to observe the mornings at home, developed and implemented a plan. Then staff trained and observed us implementing the plan, and made adjustments until we had a successfully working plan that greatly decreased the frequency and duration of problem behaviors, and insured that Caroline got to school on time. In conclusion, schools like BRAAC provide a critical service to meet the needs of certain students.

Last Name: Hoyle Organization: Blue Ridge Autism and Achievement Center Locality: Roanoke

I support HB 2117 which supports collaboration, partnerships, protections for ALL children and transitions.  This bill supports the JLARC recommendations and this is a great step forward! My son needs Blue Ridge Autism and Achievement Center (BRAAC) in Roanoke. Matthew attended public schools for four academic years, from age 3 to age 7. He was diagnosed as being on the Autism Spectrum at age 6. He was identified as being “twice exceptional” during testing but his education suffered because of the public school’s inability to provide the supports he needed.  During his time in public school he was repeatedly physically restrained, put in a “calm room”, (closet with mats on the wall and floor), removed from general education classes and left to watch YouTube videos by himself, excluded from class events, false ABA practices were used by Instructional Aides with no training which escalated behaviors and caused mental anguish. Despite numerous IEP meetings, hiring an Educational Advocate, providing proof the data was incorrect and his IEP was not being followed nothing was done. He showed PTSD symptoms related to school. By the end of 2018-19 school year no place would accept him for summer childcare and I had to take FMLA unpaid leave. His escalations had us fearing inpatient treatment might be the only option. Out of desperation we withdrew him from public school and enrolled him privately at BRAAC in the fall of 2019. Within only a few months the aggression drastically reduced, he wanted to attend school, and was excelling academically. BRAAC provides parent classes where we learned what ABA should look like and how it works when used by trained certified staff.  Now in our second year at BRAAC he is testing at least one grade level above his grade in all subjects, is learning to advocate for himself and how to use coping strategies. Our play therapist and child psychologist have praised BRAAC’s ability to combine ABA with a trauma informed approach due to his childhood trauma prior to our adoption of him. We have been able to reduce the amount of medications being taken and Matthew is now, at just shy of age 9, receiving an education that meets his needs, has a community of friends and supports, and we are confident in his successful transition, when the time is right in the future, to a school system to earn his diploma.  Our school and other special education day schools are needed to educate these students with unique educational and behavioral needs. Please feel free to contact me with questions at 540-529-5246.

Last Name: Mason Locality: Roanoke City

I support HB 2117, which supports collaboration, partnerships, and protections for ALL children and transitions. This bill supports the JLARC recommendations, and this is a great step forward! My son attends the Blue Ridge Autism and Achievement Center (BRAAC) in Roanoke County. He has multiple diagnoses and special education needs, and the public school district, through the IEP process, has determined they cannot provide him with the services he needs, and thus supports his placement at BRAAC (since the 2017-18 academic year and every year since). The highly trained educators at BRAAC have helped him advance his academic skills, but they are able to do so at HIS level and adjust as he masters skills, rather than at grade level. They are also helping him develop his social and vocational skills. He has overcome an inability to sleep because he loves to go to school now instead of dreading it like he did when he attended public school. At BRAAC, he is included in all activities, rather than excluded due to behaviors that teachers can't manage in crowded classrooms, as happened daily in the public schools. He is learning to manage his behaviors as well as his relationships with peers and adults. I could go on and on. Really, I can't overstate it. My son's attendance at BRAAC has been life-changing in so many positive ways that will impact what he can achieve--and there are similar stories from other parents, some of whom may get a chance to speak with you today. Please support HB 2117. My son needs BRAAC because, by the public school district's own determination, the public schools cannot provide what he needs. BRAAC can and does! In fact, the highly trained staff at BRAAC are providing my son with intensive, evidenced-based instruction and services that are making a tremendous impact on his abilities, knowledge and skills, and in turn, they have boosted his overall well being, both now and into his future.

Last Name: RIDDLE Organization: Blue Ridge Autism and Achievement Center Locality: Roanoke

Mu husband and I support HB 2117 which supports collaboration, partnerships, protections for ALL children and transitions. This bill supports the JLARC recommendations and is a great step forward! My son needs the Blue Ridge Autism and Achievement Center (BRAAC) because he is considered to be on the profound end of the autism spectrum. He is 15 years old and is not able to speak any words. He communicates solely though sign language, gestures, and his communication device. He requires intensive 1 on 1 assistance and teaching due to his high level needs and behavioral issues. BRAAC has been a lifesaver for our son and for our family!

Last Name: Atkinson Organization: BRAAC Locality: Roanoke

I support HB 2117 which supports collaboration, partnerships, protections for ALL children and transitions. This bill supports the JLARC recommendations and this is a great step forward! My son, Noah, attends BRAAC and has had academic and social success all because of the BRAAC staff giving him the guidance he needed. Noah was refusing to even get out of the car when he was attending public school. On the days he did attend school he was either being suspended or spending time in a padded room because staff did not know what to do with him. It was pure torture and heartbreak UNTIL he was able to attend BRAAC. He needs private day and he deserves to be able to access the kind of education he NEEDS. I hate to even think of where he would be and where our family would be had he not been able to attend BRAAC. They do GREAT things and they deserve every penny they can get and support from everyone in the education field.

Last Name: Medovich Organization: Blue Ridge Autism and Achievement Center Locality: MONETA

My son was diagnosed with autism just prior to his 3rd birthday. He was completely non-verbal. We had to strongly advocate for placement in a specialized school, and it was the most appropriate decision we could make for him. Specialized placement provided a learning environment that encouraged intensive skill acquisition. Every child has unique learning challenges that can not always be met in a student's home district. If we had not advocated for this, we would have lost a precious window of opportunity for skill acquisition in his early intervention. Special needs students, particularly students with autism, need that intensive intervention. By doing this early and intensive intervention, as well as specialized learning environment, he excelled in expressive language, social skills, as well as job readiness and other academic areas. Today, he is 29 years old, and lives in a regular apartment in downtown Roanoke. He has been on his own for 6 years. Blue Ridge Autism and Achievement Center and other specialized day schools provide unique environments for learning, and have programs and staff not typically available in a public schools. It is important for this bill to be considered for the future of special needs students. Thank you!

Last Name: Henderson Organization: Blue Ridge Autism and Achievement Center Locality: Roanoke county

I am writing on behalf of House Bill 2117. I am not the parent or caretaker of a child/ adult with disabilities or Autism but I am involved in the daily operation of a private school serving this population. I can tell you without hesitation that our school like many private schools take that responsibility very seriously. The students who attend BRAAC are the priority period. This includes the facility designed to meet their needs, qualified staff who receive continuous training, parent training on -going, equipment updates, supplies for educational and academics needs, care and maintenance of our facility community awareness and more. The Administration of our organization develops fund raisers continuously in order to support the school, the students and scholarships for our program. The personal attention we give to the students and their families is often key to our success and doing that to the degree we do is difficult for public systems with tight budgets and large enrollments. Our private setting which is entirely set up for the students we serve gives the students individual attention , protection and trained therapists from the time they arrive until the time they leave each day. We also provide therapists who go to their homes to assist the student and their family which is also key. This is what we do and because this is our only mission as a Private School, we are able to put all our efforts and energies into each individual challenge, each individual student on a daily basis. Funding Private Schools such as BRAAC not only meets the needs of the population we serve but it supports the community and the public schools in our community and surrounding counties. We have proven to be a good neighbor. Please listen to the parents of children who feel they have been lost in the public system. Please know we serve a very special purpose in our community and yes those funds are very much needed to continue what has been proven to be a successful Private School. Thank you for your consideration of House Bill 2117. With Respect, Lucy Henderson do

Last Name: Schrepf Organization: BRAAC Locality: Rockbridge

Hello, Please Pass and support Delegate VanValkenburg's House Bill 2117! This bill enables private schools such as BRAAC to receive the funding they need to provide individual instruction to their students. My family is forever changed because of the support and kindness they have showed my family. Students who receive BRAAC’s services need a safe place to learn and be themselves. My son’s life will be forever changed because of the individualized education BRAAC has given him. Nicholas was diagnosed with Autism at age two and was unable to speak or communicate his needs. He often became frustrated and would hurt himself and potentially others if his behavior got out of control. Because of the individualized instruction that BRAAC provides, Nicholas is now able to communicate and be a valued member of his community. I want other families to experience this remarkable experience by allowing their children the opportunity to receive BRAAC support. Please support Bill 2117 so that BRAAC can continue to help children in our community. Best Regards, Brittany Schrepf

Last Name: Smith Organization: Virginia Association of School Superintendents Locality: Palmyra

While the Virginia Association of School Superintendents supports parts of this bill, we feel that it should include prevention services as well as transition services. We also feel that rthe tranostion services should last longer than 12 months. Thank you, Dr. Tom Smith VASS

Last Name: Brown Organization: BRAAC Locality: Lynchburg

Before working at BRAAC I worked as a Registered Behavior Technician for a local ABA therapy company. We provided in home and clinic therapy. My clients who had autism and intellectual disabilities all went to public school and we’re not receiving the care they needed. I had a client who was non verbal and we were tracking 9 different problem behaviors within 15 minutes, including intense self injurious behaviors. She was 10 years old and put in a 5th grade special needs classroom, she was also integrated with the regular class and asked to read books and do multiplication. She was also bullied by the other students who would throw food and milk on her. Public schools are not fit to handle children like this. BRAAC focuses on stopping those problem behaviors as well as educating students using ABA methods. I had to go through intense training before starting my job at BRAAC, I am so thankful that I can use those skills I was taught to help the kids at BRAAC. It’s so amazing being there seeing these children’s lives changed for the better and I truly wish all schools would operate like BRAAC because so many lives would be changed. Cutting funding for BRAAC would devastate families and children.

Last Name: Leonard Organization: Blue Ridge Autism and Achievement Center Locality: Blue Ridge

Please support HB 2117, which works towards partnerships and collaboration with educators for high needs children, including public schools and the hard working non-profit special education day schools, who give their all to help the most vulnerable. Although we appreciate the desire to save the state money, we parents of children with severe disabilities understand that the highly specialized educational interventions during their school years IS the answer to saving the state money. The costs of specialized care for ADULTS are astronomical when their aging parents can no longer care for them! This bill DOES encompass the JLARC recommendations for the CSA study. I am the founder of Blue Ridge Autism and Achievement Centers, and the mother of a special needs son, for which this school was built. This is a quote from one of the families we serve: "In 2010, my family was in crisis. At the time, our three-year old with autism (and a severe intellectual ability), Kaedan, was in a public school preschool program. His behaviors grew worse and out of control. Kaedan urinated and defecated on our floors. He stripped both at home and in public (Yes, he has been naked in Kroger). He screamed so loud we wore ear plugs. He woke at night, jumped on the floors loudly, and kicked holes in the walls. He bit family members frequently. Frankly, my wife and I were tired, frustrated, isolated, desperate, and losing it mentally. The public school had no answers. Our saving grace was BRAAC." Hundreds of similar stories can be repeated. The cost of special education day schools ARE expensive because our staff is charged with eliminating the behaviors Kaeden exhibited, then teaching them to shower independently, toilet themselves, read, write, tell time, manage money, prepare food, communicate their wants and needs, wash their clothes....the list goes on and on. Then we teach them a specific skill so that one day they can be employed. And after that we teach them to load/unload a dishwasher, cook easy meals, manipulate water so they do not get scalded when showering, make purchases at the grocery store, not walk out in the street in front of cars, how to safely take medication....again, the list goes on. I guess the gist of what I am saying is that we teach EVERYTHING! And the state will not save money in the long run! My son will live in his community thanks to schools like BRAAC. BRAAC has 65 children on our waitlist. Public schools will not be able to do what we do. Will public school employees stand beside a shower while they teach, step-by step, every day, a seventeen year old boy how to wash his body? Or will they continue to scoop up clothing soiled with feces, balled up and thrown in a plastic Food Lion bag to be sent home for the parent to take care of and not clean the soiled legs of the student then complain about how bad he "stinks"? (true story). Will they continue to call our children "ankle-biters," with whom they are thankful to get rid of? God Bless the ARC, but they do NOT represent the children with the most severe needs, such as the ones our schools take care of, and the examples I just gave. We have a long way to go to work TOGETHER for the needs of very special children who require the highest level of training for many years to become like my son, for whom the school was started: He is now employed by Mission Barbecue and working towards living semi-independently in his own place. He has community! Support HB 2117!

Last Name: Asip Organization: Virginia Council of Administrators of Special Education (VCASE) Locality: Powhatan

I am the Policy and Legislative Chair of the Virginia Council of Administrators of Special Education (VCASE). Our more than 400 members work directly with local CSA offices in addressing special education placements in private school settings as well as serving our students in our public schools through participation in IEP meetings. VCASE generally supports the efforts that have come before the General Assembly to provide flexibility with the use of CSA funds to support public services for students who may otherwise need private school placements. We appreciate Del. Van Valkenburg addressing JLARC recommendations included in HB2117. I do have some suggestions that I have already provided to Del. Van Valkenburg and Sen. Mason (SB1313) with additional info below: 1. HB2117 addresses only the intervening (transition) services AFTER a private placement. We also support CSA funding and services that intervene in public school settings BEFORE private school placement to avert a costly private school placement. This bill should be merged with other bills before the GA that advocate for preventative public services IN ADDITION TO intervening services to support transition from private back to public schools. 2. I suggest changing the term "transition" and "transitional" to "intervening" or some other nomenclature. Transition services are a discrete set of regulated IEP processes and services to assist students with postsecondary planning. This would avoid any confusion by practitioners. 3. I agree that a one year term of CSA funded intervening services is appropriate, but that an IEP team could continue those services even without CSA funding. This part of the bill should focus on the funding stream, not appear to require specific IEP driven services. 4. I suggest a less prescriptive set of services in the bill. The IEP team (in most cases involving public and private school participants) determines the intensive services a student may need. Any list could be seen as prescriptive. 5. I suggest the last sentence (lines 53-55) would more appropriately read: "In addition, pool funds may be utilized for local agencies to contract with a private school education program provider in the public school." Current wording that asserts that the "best transition" includes contracting with private providers is overly prescriptive and may not be accurate in all circumstances. 6. Regarding lines 16 and 17, the JLARC recommended that the Commonwealth "prohibit the use of state funds for any private day school tuition payments to schools that are not licensed by the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) .." The language in lines 16 and 17 should be explicit with this prohibition. 6. There is a fiscal impact in establishing a Work Group addressing the several JLARC recommendations. I would be glad to discuss any questions you may have. I can be reached at 757-927-0588. Dr. Mike Asip

HB2299 - Special education; training for school divisions on developing IEPs for children w/ disabilities.
Last Name: Asip Organization: Virginia Council of Administrators of Special Education (VCASE) Locality: Powhatan

Madam Chair and Members of the Committee, I am the Policy and Legislative Chair of the Virginia Council of Administrators of Special Education (VCASE). Our more than 400 members supervise the provision of services for the more than 164,000 Virginia students with disabilities in our public schools. VCASE supports Del. Carr's Bill that will address prorofessional development in the proper development of IEPs the plans that provide our students with needed special education services. A driving factor in the inconsistent quality of IEPs is the critical shaortage of special education teachers and the lack of training by general education and administartive members of IEP teams. We support funding that will assist localities in providing leadership in training, monitoring, and acountability for local divisions. We ask support for house Budget Amendment HB145#31h that initiates direct support for localities in the special education accountability and support. Thank you! Mike Asip

Last Name: Huerta Organization: Virginia Board for People with Disabiliities Locality: Richmond

The Virginia Board for People with Disabilities supports increased training on IEPs and monitoring of IEP sections, particularly around transition. In its 2017 Assessment on education, VBPD found the rate of students with disabilities served in segregated settings varies by school district, with the rate of students enrolled in special education doubling in certain districts. By implementing the increased monitoring recommended in the assessment and in JLARC reports, VDOE can better train and support school districts to increase their capacity to serve students with disabilities in general education settings. This is especially important in improving transition planning. The goal of Virginia’s education system is to prepare all students to transition to employment, higher education, or other meaningful participation in their communities. Both VBPD and JLARC found that school districts need more oversight, guidance and training in how to incorporate meaningful employment, post-secondary and other transition-related goals into transition planning and services. By providing adequate supports, school districts help students succeed into adulthood.

Last Name: Milling Organization: The Arc of Virginia Locality: Richmond

I recognize this is late, so just submitting for the record. HB 2238 - Strongly Support HB 2277 - Strongly Support HB 2299 - Strongly Support HB 2211 - Support HB 2117 - As written Strongly Oppose Thank you, Tonya Milling, Executive Director

End of Comments