Temporary Task Force on Preschool Special Education
DRAFT Minutes from August 23, 2007

Co-chairs:   Rebecca Cort, Deputy Commissioner NYSED
Kim Fine, Deputy Director NYS Division of Budget

Attendees: William Combes, Susan Constantino, Michael Dedee, Robert Frawley, Mary Garrett, Bradley Hutton, Mark Jasinski, Eddie Lee, Sally McKay, Patsy Yang-Lewis, Chris Vogelsang
Absent: Mary Curtis, Michael Grossfeld

Facilitator: Rebecca Kennard
Recorders: Tina Goodwin-Segal and Sara Silver

Welcome and Getting Started (Becky Cort)
The meeting was opened by thanking everyone for their efforts since the last task force meeting. The goals and agenda for the day were briefly reviewed, acknowledging that, by the end of this meeting, the group needed to have a plan for how to move forward with finalizing recommendations for the report. There was one correction to the minutes and the revised version was adopted.

Summaries of Regional Roundtables (Kim Fine)
The co-chair began by acknowledging the presence of many observers to the Task Force meeting who have been participating in work group meetings and who helped develop mailing lists for regional events. The whole group was thanked for their efforts both in helping to make the roundtables a success and also in reaching out to their constituencies (some with additional survey work) so that the information coming to the task force represents as broad a group of stakeholders as possible. Continuation of such outreach efforts was encouraged. To that end, an email address is now available on the website for anyone to use to provide additional information to the Full Task Force members. In using that website, information would go the co-chairs, who would in-turn forward it to the other task force members.

The number of participants at each of the regional roundtables was announced. It was noted for the record that, given the short notice and timing of the roundtables, the turnout was quite good.

Date

Location

Task Force Host

Invited

Attended

August 3

New York City

Sally McKay

386

80

August 6

Syracuse

Christine Vogelsang

244

93

August 7

Buffalo

Susan Constantino

143

90

August 8

Rochester

Mike DeDee

316

88

August 9

Long Island

Mary Curtis

156

109

August 13

Albany

Mary Garrett /Susan Constantino

368

113

Totals

   

1613

573

The attendance numbers have not yet been broken down by stakeholder group, i.e., parent, providers, representatives from county/school districts. If data is available, this analysis will be done and reported back to the task force group.

 Some of the common themes from the roundtable sessions were highlighted as follows.

The notes from each of the regional meetings were available (in hard copy) at the meeting and are posted on the website. Each regional host presented a brief summary of the notes from his/her roundtable session. Bob Frawley and Donna Noyes presented the Long Island summary on behalf of Mary Curtis. There was substantial overlap from region to region with most of the regional comments addressed in the highlights of the overall summary. All hosts and facilitators agreed that roundtable participants were open, honest and appreciative of the opportunity to express their opinions.

Highlights from Follow-up Surveys (Becky Cort)
Key findings from the regional Follow-up Survey were summarized for the group. Bar graphs were used to represent the preliminary findings of differences among stakeholder groups (handout provided). There were some sharp differences between providers, counties and school districts.  These differences occurred especially on questions such as: Should the public school districts determine the evaluators?; Should the current continuum of public and private programs be retained?; Should the provision of services be the same as it is for school age?; Should the current system of the state paying 59.5% and the county paying 40.5% be retained?; Should the current system of county and state funding and county responsibility be retained?; and Should the county’s role and responsibilities be eliminated over time?

Findings from the survey essentially reinforced what was gathered from the regional roundtable discussions. There will be a more detailed report provided and posted to the website. The detailed report also will indicate the number of responses for each stakeholder group.

The group was informed that the Parent Survey will be analyzed separately. Preliminary highlights from that analysis indicated the following.

More details will be provided in a full report to follow. When that report is available it will be emailed to the task force members and posted to the website. There was a question about how the surveys were distributed. The surveys were available in hard-copy at all the roundtable sessions, instructions for completing surveys online were provided at the roundtable sessions, and a follow-up email reminder was sent to everyone who attended a roundtable session, providing there was an email address for the individual.

Preliminary Recommendations from Work Groups (Becky Kennard)
Each work group chair provided the task force members with a list of the preliminary recommendations that are being discussed in his/her work group. These work group documents were emailed to task force members and were available as hard-copy handouts at the meeting.

The facilitator began this session by describing the process that the group would follow. Each work group would have time to go through the following process.

  1. A designated member of the work group would present the preliminary recommendations.
  2. Then there would be an opportunity to ask clarifying questions. This might be about language or other types of information to help understand the recommendation.
  3. Then task force members were asked to focus on recommendations that they would have a hard time supporting, as currently written.

Work Group 1—Transition/LRE (Mary Garrett)
Started with 49 recommendations and have now consolidated, dropped or referred to another work group to have a more manageable number.

Work Group 1 (WG 1) presented eight recommendations with supporting strategies to address implementation of the recommendations (provided in the handout). The task force needed to address both the recommendations and the strategies.

Highlights of the discussion included the following comments

A set of issues were referred to other work groups. Two recommendations were presented, referred, and accepted by Work Group 2—Rate Setting; and seven recommendations were presented, referred, and accepted by Work Group 3—Service Delivery.   Most referred recommendations already were under consideration by the other groups.

Another Work Group 1 issue (not yet addressed): How to meet the needs of families, at the point of transition, regarding the service coordination. The question is, “what do we need to incorporate in PSSE to help families better navigate the system?”

One critical omission: is around the issue of transition at age 3. This discussion needs to include provider availability, and evaluations by EI/Preschool at the “age 3 transition”. Work Group 1 had agreed to maintain the current transition dates and maintain the status quo. Work Group 3 has a recommendation responding to the idea that “no child should be required to move at 3”. Work Group 1 will take this back to their next work group meeting and incorporate/reconcile the two ideas.  The Group had decided to try to address difficulties in transition rather than focus on the age as the issue – seamlessness makes age and transition dates less relevant.

A whole task force topic is how to get good outcome data and create an accountability system to determine program effectiveness. Currently Work Group 3 is addressing this issue. There is a system that has been started to address the IDEA requirement for accountability. There is some concern about how accurate the data is but the system is not fully in place. It is an area that WG3 is working on and will have a recommendation about. The information from other states will also be evaluated to help guide this recommendation.

From a district’s perspective, a good accountability system would also help a district track provider performance and make decisions about services.  

Work Group 3—Delivery System (Bob Frawley)
Work Group 3 (WG 3) had brainstormed recommendations in 7 areas and had worked through recommendations in 3 of those areas.

The recommendations from the first 3 areas were reviewed (handout provided) and the floor was opened for discussion. Comments were as follows:

There was a brief discussion about process so that recommendations aren’t lost and so that this referral of recommendations to other work groups doesn’t set the whole group back.

Areas 4-7 were then reviewed and opened for discussion. These are items that have not yet been discussed by Work Group 3. The questions for the task force members to address:

Comments included the following:

Work Group 2—Rate-Setting (Eddie Lee)

The work group chair presented the draft recommendations stressing that the proposal reflected an attempt on the part of his work group to put the items in lay language, given the inherently technical nature of the subject.  Five key areas were described, and under each, a series of recommendations were proposed (see Rate –Setting handout).  Highlights:

  1. County participation in rate-setting

There is a general consensus that county government's role in preschool programs, as contractor and payor, has limited value-added.  Accordingly, there is general agreement to recommend phasing out the counties' role in this area.  However, counties continue to retain budgetary responsibility for a portion of costs through the State-aid formula.  The fiscal implications of any phase-out for counties, school districts, and the State are undetermined.  One specific methodology was suggested by the Services workgroup.

  1. Considerations for a new rate-setting methodology

By identifying key features of other State agencies (OMRDD, OCFS, and DOH), a proposal was made to craft a new method for rate setting.  The work group believed that these would reduce complexity, lessen delays, and be more responsive to economic and programmatic shifts in service delivery (e.g., allowing parameters to represent upper cost limits, not startup or threshold costs). 

  1. SEIT rates

There was strong support for a tuition-based system, but one that “blended parameters” to preserve flexibility in the allocation of SEIT units and to provide incentives for group services.

  1. Related Services Only (RSO) rates

The work group recommended removing counties from their fiscal role (see above), and setting regional rates based on geographic indicators. 

  1. Accountability measures

Accountability should extend to individual performance plans for providers, and regular program and fiscal audits.  Implementing these with fidelity will require organizational and resource commitments.

After the presentation, the floor was opened for questions from Task Force members.  Overall, there were very few concerns expressed.  Clarification was requested on the question of setting separate property parameters, whether SEIT rates were tuition-based, and if there should be incentives for providers to collaborate on using existing properties.  An example of the need for greater flexibility in setting SEIT rates was explained as in instances when students miss therapy sessions due to illness or vacation.  However, this may not be a rate-setting issue.

Recommendations moved to other work groups
The following recommendations proposed by the rate-setting work group will be addressed in Delivery Systems work group
SEIT Rates-

Unresolved Issues

NOTE:  The work group and full committee recognized that given the time frame of its charge, it would not be realistic to work out the technical details vis-à-vis the new rate-setting method.  Further, many of these issues are subject to regulatory action.  Nonetheless, the work group will undertake to set the parameters. 

Next Steps
The facilitator engaged the members in a proposal that would help move their work forward.  In their respective work groups, they were encouraged to complete and resolve all conversations and issues that were tabled so far.  Following this, they were to edit their preliminary recommendations into a more consistent format, making decisions on how best to organize their work. The suggested format-

Recommendation:

Pros

Cons

Implementation Issues

Addresses Principle #

Looking Ahead
A general set of expectations for the remaining duration of the Task Force meetings was outlined:

September

October

November

In light of the amount of work this entailed, it was suggested that an extra Task Force session be added to the schedule: dates being considered were October 2, 3, or 4. from 10 am to 5 pm. The group agreed that additional time was needed and the co-chairs/facilitator will poll members to schedule a date.