New York Adapts CIFR Calculator to Deploy Statewide
New York State is home to more than 700 local educational agencies (LEAs) serving more than 500,000 children with disabilities. Building the capacity of the New York State Education Department (NYSED) to meet the fiscal requirements in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) involved careful planning along with expertise and resources from the Center for IDEA Fiscal Reporting (CIFR).
Spurring these capacity-building efforts was a February 2016 letter to NYSED from the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) at the U.S. Department of Education. The letter, a follow-up from an OSEP state monitoring visit, included comments about improving NYSED’s LEA maintenance of effort (MOE) procedures. The LEA MOE requirement obliges any LEA receiving IDEA Part B funds to budget and spend at least the same amount of local, or state and local, funds for the education of children with disabilities on a year-to-year basis. OSEP observed that NYSED was collecting information from LEAs only for the LEA MOE eligibility standard, which concerns the budget requirement, and not for the LEA compliance standard, which concerns actual expenditures on special education and related services.
NYSED and CIFR Work Together
In early 2016 NYSED Administrative Support Group member Todd Harrigan was given responsibility for overseeing the LEA MOE requirement, which included addressing the comments in OSEP’s letter. Later that year Harrigan and other NYSED colleagues went to CIFR’s IDEA Fiscal Forum (IFF) for state fiscal specialists and reached out for technical assistance on LEA MOE. Wrote Harrigan:
Attending the IFF and meeting CIFR staff in person was the big first step for NYSED. Without that initial face-to-face meeting at the IFF, NYSED would not be where we are today.
After the IFF, a team of CIFR TA providers went to Albany to train Harrigan and his colleagues on the LEA MOE requirement. They also introduced CIFR’s most downloaded fiscal tool, the LEA MOE Calculator, which helps states and LEAs determine whether both the eligibility (budget) and compliance (expenditures) standards have been met. The calculator brings the mathematical complexities of numerous regulations onto a single Excel platform. It finds the appropriate comparison year and amount for multiple calculation methods and accounts for exceptions and adjustments from current and past years.
The calculator was not only a way for NYSED to address the comments in OSEP’s letter but also to document LEA MOE information electron- ically. By going digital and adapting the tool for the state’s 700 LEAs, NYSED would be able to improve its capacity to gather and report complete data.
Preparing to Launch
As NYSED prepared to deploy the calculator, CIFR responded to questions, reviewed materials, and provided training resources for state staff to adapt. For example, Harrigan customized CIFR’s Using the LEA MOE Calculator PowerPoint Training Deck. He also created a step-by-step guide for the LEAs with processes specific to New York.
In spring 2017 NYSED asked LEAs to enter their data into the calculator for the compliance standard for the 2015–16 academic year. (The typical lag time in LEA MOE compliance reporting is one year.) In response to TA requests from New York and other states, CIFR created and disseminated a one-page overview of the calculator instructions, which helped reduce the number of user questions submitted to NYSED and CIFR.
Harrigan recalled how it all went:
NYSED’s new method on how to collect LEA MOE data was met with anxiety by all parties. But we knew if we were patient and diligent, the LEAs would adapt to this new policy. I am happy to say that, within the past 18 months, we have made great strides in this effort and are in a great spot in New York State.
Today NYSED and many of its LEAs use the calculator for both the eligibility and compliance standards, thus addressing OSEP’s monitoring comments. As an LEA monitoring tool, the calculator has improved consistency and enabled electronic access to data, building New York’s capacity to gather and report complete LEA MOE data.
Do you need help supporting your LEAs with LEA MOE? Contact your CIFR state TA liaisons.