RD686 - Cost Study of Private Day Special Education Programs Final Report – November 22, 2021

Executive Summary:

Public Consulting Group LLC (PCG) was contracted by the Commonwealth of Virginia Office of Children's Services (OCS) to continue the study of the current rates paid by localities to private day special education programs licensed by the Virginia Department of Education (DOE) and develop findings and recommendations based on the analysis for these rates. This executive summary condenses the report into the following components: themes and recommendations.


The following major themes emerged during the study:

• Private day special education schools serve students with a mix of behavioral, emotional, physical, developmental, and educational needs.

• The number (and salaries) of teachers and teacher aides are the primary, although not exclusive, cost driver for program expenses.

• Services such as occupational and/or physical therapy, speech-language therapy, and psychological testing are billed almost exclusively outside of the daily rate and should remain that way.

• Costs are higher in northern Virginia than the rest of the State.

• The cost collection tools utilized In the previous PCG study (completed in 2019) were too burdensome; cost collection tools utilized by the 2020 Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) study were less burdensome.

• Providers felt that a mix of actual revenue and expenses (FY19) and budgeted rates and staffing levels (FY21 and FY22) on the cost report tool would allow a more accurate picture, particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

With these themes in mind, PCG revised the cost collection tools, analyzed cost and program budget data, and developed the recommendations below.


Schools reported their FY21 rates along with the staffing levels associated with each rate. The majority (65%) reported having a program model with a ratio of one teacher to eight or higher students. For teacher aides (known by various titles in different programs), most (44%) reported having a model with one teacher aide to every four or more students in a classroom. The table displayed on page 2 of the report shows the number of programs reported by staffing ratio. The table does not indicate how many students are served at each level.

PCG created nine (9) base rate models using three different teacher to student ratios, each with three different teacher aide to student ratios. These models allow for a range of programs to meet student needs and mirror the programs currently being utilized. A 23% salary add-on is proposed for programs in northern Virginia to account for a higher cost of living in those areas. The Northern Virginia (NOVA) geographic area was identified using the geographic area and pay band differential guidance issued by the Virginia Department of Human Resource Management for Northern Virginia. PCG recommends the rates in the table displayed on page 3 of the report based on the methodologies and calculations described in this report.