MAC’s budget priorities for FY20

From April through June, the Massachusetts state legislature will be in session voting on a state budget for the 2020 fiscal year. Below are the budget items MAC has identified as critical to support educational and life opportunities for children throughout the state.

To receive important updates on these items, including easy ways to contact your legislators to express your support, email communications@massadvocates.org.

For an overview of the budget process, see below.

Massachusetts Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment Initiative (MAICEI) (Line Item #7066-9600)

This line item supports partnerships between high schools and public institutes of higher education to provide students with intellectual disabilities and autism the opportunity to participate in college with supports and services they need to be successful. This cost-effective initiative increases school and work success when students exit special education at age 22.

According to the Department of Higher Education, 14 state colleges and universities are partnering with over 100 school districts, collaboratives, charter schools and 766 private schools and are including over 160 young adults with ID and autism. It is important to provide inclusion opportunities in additional public institutions of higher education for students with disabilities throughout the state.

Safe and Supportive Schools (Line Item #7061-9612)

In 2014, the Legislature incorporated the Safe and Supportive Schools law into its groundbreaking Act Relative to the Reduction of Gun Violence. The Legislature’s vision was to help schools create safe and supportive whole-school cultures that effectively address many barriers to learning, such as substance abuse, gun violence, and bullying, so that all students can succeed in school. Continued support is crucial for spreading implementation across the Commonwealth.

Funding for this budget item would accomplish the following:

  1. Continue the Safe and Supportive Schools Grant Program
  2. Maintain Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) staffing to continue to implement, coordinate, and expand the goals of the Safe and Supportive Schools Commission
  3. Provide for statewide conferences and leadership summits to help spread the work beyond grantee schools and districts
  4. Conduct a second independent evaluation of the activities funded by the line item to help DESE and the Commission learn what is working well.
  5. Support schools to integrate and align student supports to improve student learning outcomes.

Children’s Autism Medicaid Waiver (Line Item #5920-3010)

The Children’s Autism Medicaid Waiver provides vital support for children with autism, including intensive in-home services (such as ABA and DIR/Floor Time) and other services that support children who are from low-income families in their homes and communities. Increased funding for this item would allow more low-income children to be served by the Waiver.

Research demonstrates that children with autism who receive intensive in-home services can make substantial progress and in some instances acquired skills within typically developing ranges in areas of social skills, language acquisition, nonverbal communication, and reductions in challenging behaviors.

Cost-benefit analysis has shown that if children with autism receive intensive services at a young age, the savings are significant. Recent studies have found that the provision of intensive services (such as Applied Behavioral Analysis), at early ages can result in estimated cost savings ranging from $187,000 to $203,000 per child ages 3-22 years, and a total lifetime savings range of 1 to 2 million dollars.

The Special Education Circuit Breaker (Line Item #7061-0012)

The Special Education Circuit Breaker account was put into effect in 2004 so that the Commonwealth would help defray the expense to local school districts for providing legally mandated special education supports and services to children with severe disabilities.

How the Special Education Circuit Breaker Benefits Students and School Districts:

  • Circuit Breaker funding helps to offset the costs for specialized services for the increasing number of children with severe disabilities, including students with specific health care needs, autism and other neurological disabilities.
  • Funding follows students whose programs exceeds 4x the average foundation amount in any setting.
  • Schools and families support the need for Circuit Breaker funding to support students with significant special education needs.
  • Local school districts can better support the costs associated with services necessary for students with significant disabilities who are entitled to a free, appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment.
  • Circuit Breaker provides a critical financial support for districts to deliver mandated special education services and programs, rather than utilizing other costly administrative processes which reduce financial resources necessary to secure services/programs for students.

Civil Legal Aid (Line Item #0321-1600)

Civil legal aid is a vital resource for low-income families facing civil legal issues related to housing, immigration, disability benefits, and other issues. Without this critical funding, civil legal aid programs are forced to turn away many low-income individuals and families seeking services.

Funding for this budget item supports MAC’s advocacy work.