The latest draft of the proposed Accountability Regulations, issued June 4, could drive up administrative spending at a time when school boards are being asked to reduce such costs, according to an NJSBA analysis.
While some parts of the new draft are troubling, other sections clarify provisions in the original version, issued on April 30.
Legal Counsel The second draft sets out a complex process for school districts to obtain legal advice. The proposal requires the designation of a contact person with the sole authority to request services or advice from contracted legal counsel.
“The process for obtaining legal advice is extremely complex and has the potential to create additional liability issues for the board of education,” Mike Vrancik, NJSBA director of governmental relations, stated in a June 5 letter to Commissioner of Education Lucille Davy.
“Having a non-attorney make decisions regarding whether to seek legal advice or not is bad public policy as it requires an untrained individual to make decisions on legal matters,” wrote Vrancik. “The additional administrative work required by this section will require the hiring of additional staff…”
Audits/Medicaid Other areas of concern include—
- Seeking reimbursement through the federal Special Education Medicaid Initiative. The process outlined in the draft is “administratively burdensome and will require the hiring of additional administrative staff...,” wrote Vrancik.
- Securing a second financial audit in districts that receive half of their revenue from the state. Such financial reports are considered administrative expenditures and can entail significant costs for school districts. The proposed regulations do not specify if the state or the school district would pay for the additional audit.
NJSBA leaders will seek clarification of several components, including board member travel and training restrictions, at a meeting scheduled this week with Commissioner Davy.
NJSBA’s sent a response to the proposed regulations on June 5 to the commissioner.
Emergency Regulations The state Department of Education’s second, 83-page draft consists only of those sections that are considered to be “commissioner,” or emergency, regulations and which would go into effect immediately upon publication, as early as this week.
Under current law, other elements of the regulations would be subject to the regular code review process before the state Board of Education. However, proposed legislation, S-1911, would enable the commissioner to draft and publish all Accountability Act regulations without state board input and public comment. (See related story.) The regulations could also be implemented as “footnote” language added to the 2008-2009 state budget.