In 1995, the Texas Legislature appropriated funds for the provision of noneducational community-based support services for certain students with disabilities and their families so that those students may receive a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE). These funds may be used only for eligible students with disabilities who, without the provision of noneducational community-based support services, would remain or would have to be placed in residential facilities for education reasons. The intent of the state legislation is for schools to provide services that are unallowable purchases with education funds, to help families of this population care for their students, and to enable families to better cope with having an individual with a disability at home.
Support services that can be provided include:
- Attendant Care
- Psychiatric and Psychological Consultation
- Management of Leisure Time
- Peer Support Group
- Parent Support Group
- Socialization Training
- Individual Support
- Family Support
- Family Dynamics Training
- Respite Care
- Transportation to access approved non-educational services
- Generalization Training
A Frequently Asked Questions document gives the definition of these services. These services are not intended to be intensive or long-term but rather, periodic and short-term. The only services that can be paid for with these funds for students with autism are respite care or attendant care, since the other services must be paid by district funds.
To access these services, parents should contact their child’s school and request a meeting to discuss the need for non-educational services. School districts and charter schools that choose to apply for non-educational funds must have a planning meeting to discuss options for non-educational services. Persons attending and participating in this meeting should include district staff knowledgeable about the student, representatives from the local mental health agency or the local Community Resource Coordination Group (CRCG), and the parents. The student’s ARD committee may not serve as this group and should not make the decision regarding services.
While the district has the primary responsibility of determining what non-educational support services are going to be provided, the role of the CRCG is to assist planning by reviewing and signing off on the non-ed funds application that is submitted by the district.
If generalization training is necessary to teach parent(s) effective parenting skills and how to manage the student in the home and community away from an educational structure, noneducational support services funds can be used. In this instance, the district provides an educational program for the student while parents acquire necessary management skills. Additionally, parents may receive training in the areas of socialization and family dynamics as offered through family support groups.
The funds can pay for such services as family consultation and for teaching parents effective management or parenting skills. Funds may not be used to pay for a psychiatrist providing treatment for a student, writing prescriptions for medications for students, or any other medical or treatment-related service.
Funds cannot be used for equipment, or to build or remodel a home. Transportation that is necessary for families to receive services approved in the district’s application is allowable. Transportation for students to receive noneducational services, such as socialization, is also allowable. Districts determine the qualifications for respite/attendant care givers. They can contract with agencies that are licensed by the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) and Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS). This may include family members who are not the primary care giver.
The district is liable for misuse of these funds. So districts should monitor the activities and services utilized.
Once it has been determined what services are needed, the school district contacts the education service center to apply for this funding. In the past many schools were reluctant to request these funds, because they feared that saying a student is at risk of needing a residential placement for education reasons would open them up to a request to pay for residential placement. It seems like more schools recognize that many parents need and are seeking help to meet their child’s needs in the home setting and are willing to request these funds.
Applications may be submitted at any time. However, ESCs only receive a limited amount of funds, so funds may not be available for all requests. Funding can begin September 1 and can be used through the following August. Sometimes funds become available in the second half of the school year, if less funds are used than expected. So some applications may be accepted for the Spring, or summer.
Information on this funding and the process and procedures that the school must follow, and the questions document can be found at: http://tea.texas.gov/Academics/Special_Student_Populations/Special_Education/Non-educational_Community-Based_Support_Services/