Just hours before the conclusion of the spring legislative session, the Illinois General Assembly passed two bills that will significantly impact students who receive services until age 22.
The first, HB40, impacts students who turn 22 during the school year by allowing them to continue to receive special education services until the end of that school year rather than until the day before their 22nd birthday. This is a change we have been anticipating for some time, and will take effect upon the Governor’s signature.
The second, HB 2748, titled “COVID-19 post-secondary transition recovery eligibility,” provides an extended period of IEP services for students who turned 22 “during the time in which the student’s in-person instruction, services, or activities” were “suspended for a period of 3 months or more during the school year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.” Students who fit these criteria are eligible for services through the end of the regular 2021-2022 school year.
While the bill that passed is much narrower than the proposed legislation, which required an additional year of eligibility for all students who turned 22 from March 17, 2020 through the end of this school year, many questions remain. For example, what constitutes a “suspension” of services? How is the three-month period measured? Do services delivered through a “hybrid” model count toward the suspension period?
The bill is clear in its exemption of students who are no longer residents of the district they attended at the time of their 22nd birthday. It also states that school districts are not required to resume private therapeutic day or residential services for students who have aged out of the program or when funding for the placement is no longer available. Yet the bill does not explicitly excuse districts from providing alternative services to such students, raising questions about what services must be provided when the student’s programming is no longer accessible. Another question is whether ISBE will extend approval to private schools to work with students eligible under this bill beyond their 22nd birthdays and whether funding would also be extended.
The bill directs teams to continue work on the goals that were in place when the student turned 22, but also permits teams to reach an agreement to revise goals if necessary to “appropriately” meet the student’s transition needs. An additional uncertainty is created by the bill is that it does not specifically state that the student is entitled to FAPE for the 2021-2022 school year, but to a continuation of the services in place when the student turned 22. And while the bill states that the team can agree to revise the student’s goals, it is silent with respect to revising the student’s services or placement.
The law becomes effective upon the Governor’s signature. Districts must mail notice informing students/parents/guardians of the availability of additional services within 30 days of the effective date.
We are working with ISBE as they develop guidance on this new requirement, and will have more information as soon as it becomes available.