Less than a year ago, Public Act 101-0515 sent Illinois special educators scrambling to comply with an array of new procedural requirements. IAASE and other groups have been working to bring additional clarity to the law and make it more workable for schools while maintaining the original focus on parent participation. Senate Bill 1569 just passed in the legislature and, if signed, would make changes in each of the areas impacted by the original Act. Although you’re busy dealing with the challenges related to remote learning and preparing for the unknowns of next school year, take a few minutes to review the changes below and get ready to make a couple additional modifications to your processes.
The original Act required schools to do the following:
- Provide parents draft documents three school days prior to an IEP meeting,
- Maintain related services logs and make them available to parents,
- Notify parents if IEP services were not provided for 10 school days and of the right to request compensatory services,
- Use RTI or MTSS as part of the evaluation process for specific learning disabilities, and
- Include parents in that RTI or MTSS process.
In December, made two changes were made:
- The requirement to provide draft documents prior to an IEP meeting was postponed until July 1, 2020, and
- The use of RTI and MTSS was permissive rather than mandatory (though the ISBE regulations continued to require their use as part of the eligibility process for specific learning disabilities).
The New Bill
The new bill contemplates a number of changes to the law:
- Draft IEP documents, evaluation reports, and other materials to be reviewed at meetings. The new bill would give parents the option to choose from available methods of delivery, which must include regular mail and picking up the materials at the school. Consider asking parents to select a method as part of the annual school registration process or at the annual IEP meeting and then confirming the method as part of the meeting notice. Careful tracking and planning will be needed to implement this provision, especially given that documents must be ready and sent even further in advance if a parent chooses to receive the information through the regular mail. The revised law would also require that parents be informed of their right to review and copy their child’s school student records prior to any eligibility or IEP meeting, this notice could also be added to the notice of conference. Because the extended effective date for this provision, July 1, 2020, is right around the corner, if your school has not been sending home draft documents and other data to be reviewed three school days prior to IEP meetings, now is the time to start planning to do so.
- Related services logs. The new bill clarifies the requirements related to related services logs. First, schools would not be required to make the logs available at the student’s annual review meeting. The logs would continue to be student records that must be provided to parents upon request. Additionally, the new bill defines the related services for which logs must be kept, including speech and language, occupational therapy, physical therapy, social work, counseling, psychology, and nursing. Notably absent from the list are aides and transportation.
- Compensatory services. While the original version of this section led us to the conclusion that parent notification was required if IEP services were not provided to a student for any 10 school day period, the new bill provides that such notice would only be required if an IEP service was not made available to the student within 10 school days of when that service was set to be initiated. The new bill also clarifies that if the service is available, but the student is unavailable, those days do not count toward the 10 school days. Finally, under the revised law, the notice, rather than informing a parent of the ability to request compensatory services, would be required to notify the parent about the procedures for requesting compensatory services. Consider developing a simple procedure to include with the notice, including that the parent should contact a designated person to make the request—in addition to providing the standard IDEA procedural safeguards.
- Response to scientific, research-based intervention. The revised law would delete the section that permitted schools to use RTI or MTSS as part of the evaluation process for specific learning disabilities as well as other eligibility categories. The ISBE regulations continue to require that schools use RTI as part of the evaluation process to determine eligibility under the specific learning disability category, and a school can use such a process as part of the evaluation for other eligibility categories as appropriate and agreed upon be the parent. The revised law would no longer require that the parent be part of the team that reviews the data and makes decisions about RTI and MTSS; however, parent engagement and regular communication is encouraged. Further, the new bill would require that the parent be provided with written notice that the school is providing the child with RTI or MTSS support as well as with all data collected and reviewed by the school related to the child’s participation in RTI or MTSS.
The revised law will become effective upon the Governor’s signature. We will provide an update if that occurs. If you have questions about what the revisions mean for your district or school, reach out to our Franczek special education team.