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An Act Relative to Assure Opportunities for all Students with Disabilities – HB415

Introduction

The Massachusetts Association of 766 Approved Private Schools (maaps) represents 86 private school organizations approved by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to enroll publicly funded students with special needs.  Our members provide highly specialized education and treatment programs to approximately 5,300 public students with special needs from Massachusetts.

Due to the restrictive tuition pricing policies of the Operational Services Division (OSD), 70% of our school programs operate at a deficit.  In FY ’11, our schools lost over $25.2 million dollars.  Since 1993, the excess cost of providing a public education has totaled over $277 million.  Our members offset this shortfall through private donors, fund raising, higher costs charged to private pay and out-of-state students.  Our members also bring over $189 million a year in out-of-state and private tuition payments into the Massachusetts economy.

Additionally, tuition rate inflation adjustments set by OSD have not even kept up with inflation. OSD sets tuition rates below what it costs our member school to provide an education to Massachusetts’ public students.  As a result, our members cannot pay staff salaries that can compete with those in public schools.  The average public school teacher salary in FY ‘11 was $70,340 compared to the average salary in our member schools of $44,635.  This is a difference of $25,705 and our teachers work a month longer. This disparity results in an average rate of teacher licensure in our schools of only 51% compared to 95% in public schools.  Our schools are only able to retain 65% of their teachers each year, compared to a retention rate of 86% in public schools.

Provisions of the Bill

The Operational Services Division (OSD) sets C766 school tuition rates and is required by statute, section 22N of Chapter 7, to determine a rate of inflation by October first of each year for use in the following fiscal year.  OSD’s current inflation factor methodology does not reflect the costs of our member schools and OSD is free to elect not to add the inflation factor to tuition rates.  Since 1993, inflation adjustments to tuition rates have not even kept up with the Consumer Price Index, while our schools’ operating costs have soared.

This bill would require (OSD) to:

  • Establish annual tuition prices which would include an annual inflation adjustment based on the cost structure of our member schools.
  • Establish tuition pricing policies which enable our member schools to hire and retain properly licensed teachers and other staff providing direct service to students.
  • Issue out-of-state purchaser rate letters upon request of a C766 approved school.  The out-of-state purchaser rate would increase the rate for out-of-state students identifying the most recent price calculated for the program and applying the estimated rate of inflation for each year. (The Legislature first provided temporary authority for out-of-state rates by including a provision in the 2003 Municipal Relief Bill.  However, the provision did not amend the OSD statute, MGLchapter 7, section 22N, and applied only to FY 04 out-of-state rates. The Legislature again adopted a temporary provision for out-of-state purchasers in the FY ’05 -‘13 state budgets.)