RD439 - Plan to Determine and Biennially Rebenchmark the Allocation of Regional Alternative Education Program Slots to Participating School Divisions – September 1, 2021

Executive Summary:

The 1993 General Assembly approved House Bill 2358 and Senate Bill 944 which directed the Board of Education to establish and implement no more than four (4) regional alternative education pilot projects. Each project was to involve two or more school divisions working in collaboration to establish options for those students who no longer had access to school or who were returning from youth learning centers. The General Assembly funded and approved the pilot program for $1.2 million. Targeted in these pilot programs would be those students who: (1) have a pending violation of a school board policy; (2) have been expelled or have long-term suspensions; or (3) have been released from a youth learning center and identified by the superintendent of the Department of Correctional Education (now Department of Juvenile Justice) and the local division superintendent for the program. Section 22.1-209.1:2 of the Code of Virginia establishes the statutory provisions governing regional alternative education programs.

Once the program was expanded statewide by the General Assembly, the number of student slot assignments across regional programs and their participating divisions has remained relatively unchanged through the years. However, funding for the program typically increases with each biennial budget since the cost of the staffing standard that is the basis of the add-on per pupil funding amount (described below) increases as the cost of funded salaries and fringe benefits are rebenchmarked in the formula each biennium.

The General Assembly continues to provide annual funding to establish and maintain regional programs towards the goal of making regional alternative education programs available to school divisions statewide. There are no local matching funds required of participating school divisions. School divisions are required to provide in-kind support for such items as instructional materials, additional staff, pupil transportation and facilities. Each regional program is required to have a small student/staff ratio and various student support services with the goal of returning students served in the programs to the regular classroom environment. For fiscal year 2022, $9.9 million in Lottery funding is appropriated by the General Assembly for these programs.

The adopted state formula for the regional alternative education funding is based on a per pupil add-on (PPA) to each participating school division’s Basic Aid per pupil amount provided under the Standards of Quality funding formula. Students served by regional alternative education programs are still counted in the March 31 average daily membership of their resident school division and generate ADM-based state funding like other students. The add-on PPA is based on recognized staff costs to operate an alternative education program. These staff costs include a principal, teachers at a 10:1 ratio, aides, a counselor, security staff, and administrative support. The VDOE subtracts what a school division receives for its Basic Aid per pupil from the total alternative education per pupil cost to compute the final funded add-on PPA. The per pupil add-on amount is then multiplied by the number of approved student slots for the division and adjusted for the division’s composite index to compute the annual state payment for each division.

At the request of school divisions, the General Assembly previously included in the appropriation act a reallocation process in which school divisions that do not use all of their allocated student slots under the program, may have such unused slots reallocated or transferred to another school division.

Each year fiscal agent school divisions are required to submit a continuation application and a student slot survey to VDOE. The continuation application requires the fiscal agent to provide detailed information on the following:

1. Information of Participating Divisions;
2. Information on Satellite Projects/Sites;
3. Budget by Object Codes and Description of Expenses for Funds Appropriated by State;
4. Numbers of Students and Grades Served;
5. Program Objectives;
6. Program Narrative; and
7. Request and Maintain File of Assurances from Participating School Divisions.

The fiscal agent coordinator for each regional program is responsible for contacting the participating divisions in that regional program and completing a combined survey on the number of slots to be used in the regional program for the upcoming school year and submit it to VDOE. The data collected determines the number of unused student slots that will be available for reallocation in the upcoming fiscal year, and the number of unused student slots being requested by divisions. Once VDOE receives the information, the annual reallocation process is conducted to distribute unused student slots to requesting divisions, as described in the following section.