ADMINISTRATIVE LETTER: Change in the Ending Age for Special Education Eligibility – Effective Immediately

ADMINISTRATIVE LETTER

Administrative Letter: 1
Policy Code: IHBEA
To: Public School Administrators
From: Pender Makin, Commissioner
Date:  January 21,2021
Subject: Change in the Ending Age for Special Education Eligibility – Effective Immediately

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires states to provide “[a] free, appropriate public education . . . to all children with disabilities residing in the State between the ages of 3 and 21 inclusive[.]”  20 U.S.C. § 1415(a)(1)(A).  IDEA permits an exception to this general age range: “[t]he obligation to make a free, appropriate public education available to all children with a disabilities does not apply with respect to children . . . [aged] 18 through 21 in a State to the extent that its application to those children would be inconsistent with State law or practice, or the order of any court, respecting the provision of public education to [such] children[.]”  20 U.S.C. § 1415(a)(1)(B)(i).

Maine’s generally applicable age-eligibility statute states that students are eligible for a pK-12 public education until the end of the school year in which they turn 20 years old. 20-A M.R.S. § 5201(1). As a result, Maine has historically terminated a student with a disability’s eligibility for a free, appropriate public education (FAPE) at the end of the school year in which they turn 20.

In 2018, the Court of Appeals for the First Circuit held that students are entitled to FAPE until age 22 (the so-called “federal standard”) where the state provides public education in the form of adult education to students who are under age 22 but older than the state “age out” for pK-12 education.  K.L. v. Rhode Island Board of Education, 907 F.3d 639 (2018).  The First Circuit concluded that for purposes of the IDEA, “public education” contains three basic attributes: (1) “a significant level of state or local government funding, [] (2) the public administration or oversight of the educational services” and (3) the education of students “up to the level of academic proficiency associated with the completion of secondary school.” Id. at 642, 644.

Maine’s adult education system meets the First Circuit’s definition of “public education” as it receives significant state and local government funding, is administered by the Department of Education and local public entities (primarily school administrative units either alone or in collaboration), and provides coursework that allows students to complete and receive their high school diplomas.  As such, there is little question that the same result would be reached by the First Circuit if Maine’s statutes were challenged.

After consulting with counsel, the Department has concluded that terminating eligibility to a free, appropriate public education at the end of the school year in which a student turns 20 pursuant to 20-A M.R.S. § 5201(1) years is inconsistent with the IDEA as interpreted by the First Circuit in K.L. v. Rhode Island Board of Education, 907 F.3d 639 (2018).

Effective immediately, Maine will implement the “federal standard” and provide FAPE to eligible students until their 22nd birthday.

All school administrative units must notify adult students who would have previously “aged out” of special education on June 30, 2021 of their right to receive a free, public education until either they receive a regular high school diploma or their 22nd birthday, whichever comes first.

The Department will be providing technical assistance around the provision of FAPE beyond age 20.  For more information, contact Erin Frazier, State Director of Special Education Birth to 22, at erin.frazier@maine.gov.

Special education counts and costs for students over 20 will be counted under Title 20 A §15681-A.2. Students 5-22 are now part of your child count and SAUs will receive state subsidy based on this count.

 

Joint Statement of Commitment and Support for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Maine Schools

The Maine Department of Education, Maine School Boards Association, Maine School Superintendents Association, Maine Administrators of Services for Children with Disabilities, Maine Education Association, Maine Principals Association, and Maine Curriculum Leaders Association enthusiastically affirm the right of every student to an equitable education.  We proudly and steadfastly support the educators and districts in Maine who are taking on the work of understanding and dismantling racism and inequity in our schools and communities. We urge all Maine schools and educators to accept their role and responsibilities in examining and addressing the inequities that have long existed in our society and institutions.

We define educational equity as providing each student a legitimate opportunity to learn, grow, and thrive in school and beyond.

Equity depends on a deliberate and systematic abolition of the inequities that have been sewn into the fabric of American society. These persistent inequities have long disadvantaged students on the basis of race, sex, gender, gender expression, language, physical and intellectual ability, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, indigenous origin, religion, and all aspects of human identity that have been subjugated within our society. We recognize that education is one of many systems that have had a role in perpetuating racial inequities, and that through close examination of our system, we can and must strive to attain diversity, equity, and inclusion of all voices and experiences. We believe this work is central to living up to our promises of providing an outstanding education for every Maine learner and continuing to be a public education system of excellence.

We recognize and commit to our role and duty as Maine public education leaders to actively partner with all schools in constructing a new educational paradigm, founded on the certainty that every student can and will be successful when:

  • School is a welcoming, safe place for all school community members to bring their whole identities with them
  •  Social emotional and behavioral supports are understood as critical prerequisites to academic learning
  • Students’ primary and home languages are recognized as assets, cultivated, and leveraged
  • Every educator in every role shares the responsibility for ensuring equity for every student and participates in equity education, both in teacher and administrator preparation programs and ongoing throughout their careers
  •  Families are meaningfully engaged as partners in their children’s education and welcomed into our schools
  • All academic and non-academic programming is culturally responsive and co-constructed with community members

Examining racism and inequity is difficult work. As each student of Maine is a future citizen of our global society, we believe this is work that needs to be engaged in respectfully and civilly by all the schools and communities in our state.  Understanding and addressing racism and inequity will take many different forms, all of which are valid and needed. Already many educators, school districts, and organizations are exploring this work in some of the following ways:

  • Defining with school and community members what makes a safe and welcoming place for all and committing to the vision
  • Reviewing your SAU’s Controversial Issues policy and best practices for engaging in discussions responsively and responsibly.
  • Engaging community members in discussions and actions to ensure that schools are a safe and welcoming place for all students
  • Engaging in equity audits to examine a variety of practices and programs
  • Expecting all school personnel to engage in professional learning about anti-racism and culturally responsive practices
  • Reviewing and revising curricula and materials to ensure they are well-rounded, decolonized, and representing all experiences
  • Adopting anti-racism instructional practices, programs, and policies
  • Establishing Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) committees of stakeholders
  • Establishing expectations that every student will achieve and is challenged with rigorous curricula
  • Creating, supporting or amplifying student Civil Rights Teams within each school

We believe in the power and responsibilities that are bestowed on our educational institutions to provide a safe and equitable place in which all students can thrive, and where students are encouraged to examine their world, their beliefs and their role in society through multiple perspectives. We believe all students, all families, and all human beings deserve to be celebrated, included, and heard, and we are committed to supporting our schools and educators in taking on the challenge of examining and changing our practices.

We stand united in our commitment to this work and our support of the educators who are courageously stepping up and stepping into the learning, growing and changing that is needed. Our organizations will continue to provide resources, support and technical assistance as we all expand our own knowledge and capacity to engage in this critically important work on behalf of our students and our collective future.

MEDIA RELEASE: Anita Bernhardt Named Maine Assistant Superintendent of the Year

Anita Bernhardt of the York School Department has been named Maine’s Assistant Superintendent of the Year for her work to improve academic performance, attendance, and graduation rates and her dedication to meet the needs of all students in the district.

“We are delighted to know that Anita is receiving this auspicious honor,” said Maine DOE Deputy Commissioner Dan Chuhta. “Her contributions to education within her district and throughout the State of Maine serve as testimony to her limitless commitment to excellence, equity, and student success.”

Nominated by her school board, Bernhardt is described as a data driven and collaborative leader who ensures her assessment teams are making fact-based, informed decisions on how best to design and employ innovative and creative learning solutions.

Having demonstrated outstanding expertise in designing and delivering professional development on timely topics with challenging content for all staff, she also has re-invigorated and expanded her district’s professional development opportunities to neighboring districts.

Her career in education started as a science educator. She served as a teaching fellow at Harvard Graduate School of Education and worked as the Director of Standards and Instruction for Maine’s Department of Education. Prior to becoming Assistant Superintendent, she served as the Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment for York School Department.

Bernhardt has long been recognized for her excellence in education. She received the U.S. Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching Science in 2003; was recognized for her leadership in the Maine Learning Results Review in 2006; received the Friend of Maine Technology Award in 2008; was honored as the Maine Audubon Educator of the Year in 2009; and, received the Philip Marcoux Award from the Maine Science Teachers Association in 2013.

Bernhardt was named Maine’s 2021 Assistant Superintendent of the Year by the Maine’s School Superintendents Association at its annual meeting, held virtually in late October.

Learning Facilitator Program- Great Resource for Schools, Free for Trainees!

In order to be responsive to critical staff shortages in Maine schools as a result of the pandemic, Governor Mills created additional flexibilities and opportunities for educators in Executive Order #7. Based on the Executive Order, the Maine Department of Education, in collaboration with Maine Community College System and Eastern Maine Community College, has developed the Learning Facilitator Program, a fast-track training program for paraprofessional level educators to expand, strengthen and support a high quality educator workforce.

The program, which is offered at no cost to the participants, is completed in two phases in one academic year with the ongoing support of Eastern Maine Community College faculty.

  • A week-long 3-credit course “boot camp” with foundational elements of classroom management and school culture. Additionally, the core boot camp curriculum includes training in COVID readiness, bloodborne pathogens, suicide awareness and prevention, mandated reporter training, and fingerprint clearance in order to address both substitute teacher and long-term support staff preparedness.
  • The second phase of the program consists of a combination of online work, professional learning community meetings, and a structured teaching apprenticeship (315 hours).

Upon completion of the 3-credit course “boot camp,” participants will have the foundational skills necessary to fill short- and long-term substitute educator roles, as well as all paraprofessional positions. They can support instruction and provide guidance to learners in the classroom under the supervision of a mentor teacher or teaching team. Mentor teachers or teaching teams may be working remotely or in-person. Special coding for Learning Facilitators has been created within NEO for schools, so that subsidy will not be impacted.

Educators who complete all elements of the Learning Facilitator Program, as outlined above, will qualify for an Educational Technician III certification.

For more information related to the program, please visit the EMMC website, here.

US Department of Education Approves Waiver for Maine DOE to Allow 21st CCLC Programs to Operate During School Hours

The Maine Department of Education (DOE) has received federal approval on its request to waive section 4201(b)(1)(A) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.  Approval of this waiver grants Maine DOE the temporary authority to allow 21st CCLC programs to provide supplemental services to students during school hours, provided that such services do not supplant, conflict with, or compete with classroom instruction or other services provided by school personnel.  This waiver is meant to offer significant flexibilities to 21st CCLC program providers in addressing challenges brought on by COVID-19 through the remainder of the 2020-2021 school year.

Local 21st CCLC program providers who wish to take advantage of this waiver opportunity must submit a waiver request to the Maine DOE for consideration.  Please note that waiver requests will be reviewed on a rolling basis, in the order in which they are received.  Additionally, a 21st CCLC program provider may not begin using 21st CCLC funds for services during school hours until such time as the Maine DOE has provided an approved waiver to that provider.

How to Apply: Interested parties should contact Travis Doughty at travis.w.doughty@maine.gov to obtain a copy of the Waiver Request Form and then return the completed form with all required signatures.

Contact: For more information on this waiver opportunity, please contact State Coordinator, Travis Doughty at travis.w.doughty@maine.gov or 624-6709.