«

»

An Act to Provide Equal Access to Evaluations for Children with Disabilities

“An Act to Provide Equal Access to Evaluations for Children with Disabilities” is a bill that establishes more reasonable rates for independent educational evaluations (IEEs), which are often needed (but nearly impossible to obtain) in order to ensure appropriate special education services for children with disabilities. The current rates set by the Massachusetts for independent evaluations are so far below the rates customarily charged by evaluators that many low-income and middle-income parents  (who often simply cannot afford to fund an evaluation at their own expense) are unable to obtain an information necessary to effectively participate in the development of appropriate special education services for their child. Given that so few evaluators DO accept the current rates, the extreme wait times to access such an evaluator often amounts to a lot of valuable education time wasted time for children with disabilities.

Key Facts

  • This bill establishes reasonable rates for independent educational evaluations, which are critically important to ensure appropriate special education services for children with disabilities. Rates would have to be reviewed every three years and adjusted as necessary.
  • Educators and parents rely on educational evaluations to determine the special education services necessary for the child’s individualized education program (IEP). State and federal special education laws give parents the right to fully participate, as equal members of the IEP Team, in the development of their child’s IEP. Independent educational evaluations provide the only way for parents to exercise those rights and participate effectively in this process in the unusual situation where they disagree with a school district evaluation.
  • State and federal special education laws give parents the right to request an independent education evaluation, paid by the school district, if they disagree with the school district’s evaluation, but currently, the rates set by the state for independent evaluations are far below the rates customarily charged by evaluators. This means that many low-income and middle-income parents cannot obtain the evaluation necessary to effectively participate on the IEP Team.
  • For example, the state rate for a neuropsychological evaluation is set at an hourly rate that is 28% lower than Medicare and 38% lower than BlueCross/Blue Shield. The state maximum rate is $900, while $2,500 or more is the rate charged by private evaluators. Neuropsychological evaluations are often the most important evaluation in determining a student’s educational needs and paramount to developing an appropriate IEP.
  • The bill would require that rates be established at a level that allows parents to have a choice of qualified evaluators, as required by the United States Department of Education. [1] The bill also requires that rates include observation of the student and other critical aspects of a valid assessment.
  • In addition, the Bureau of Special Education Appeals would be able to order a higher rate in extraordinary cases. Further, In the rare instances that parents prevail at a hearing and have paid expert fees, the parents would have the right to be reimbursed for these fees by the school district.
  • This bill helps to level the playing field for low-income and middle-income families, with modest costs: increased rate costs are estimated at approximately $500,000-$750,000 statewide.

These rates are in NEED of adjustment: the current rates are so unrealistically low that very, very few practitioners of any kind will/can afford afford to accept them…this leaves families at a severe disadvantage when the school’s evaluations are less than comprehensive or appropriate and families are unable to fund an appropriate evaluation on their own.

rates

 

NOW is the time to e-mail or call your state senator and state representative to ask them to co-sponsor important legislation regarding Independent Educational Evaluation rates.  The deadline for legislators to sign on as co-sponsors is January 30 (NEXT WEEK!) Please call or write to express your support. Find information identifying your State Representative and Senator via the site at http://www.wheredoivotema.com/bal/MyElectionInfo.aspx

For more information about IEEs, read attorney Michelle Moor’s April 2013 blog post “What is an Independent Educational Evaluation – and Who Pays for It?”  http://michellemoor.com/what-is-an-independent-educational-evaluation-and-who-pays-for-it/