|Organization:||Division of Local Mandates|
Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 76, Section 7: Tuition; children under control of department of children and families; foster care; reimbursement
The Local Mandates Law
On March 28, 2018, the Mayor of Greenfield petitioned the State Auditor’s Division of Local Mandates (DLM) regarding the failure by the Commonwealth to reimburse the Greenfield Public Schools for educational services provided to students in foster care in out-of-district placements covered by the provisions of G.L. c. 76, § 7.1 Greenfield indicated that in FY 2015 it spent $709,931.24 to provide educational services to students placed in foster care in Greenfield.2 Greenfield believed that the failure to fund the provisions of Section 7 impose a direct service or cost obligation on the Greenfield Public Schools in contravention of the Local Mandate Law, G.L. c. 29, § 27C.
When Greenfield petitioned DLM, the Division was in the process of undertaking a municipal impact study regarding the fiscal impact of providing educational services to students in foster care. Consequently, DLM asked if we could address this matter in the municipal impact study, which Greenfield agreed to. DLM is continuing to work on its municipal impact study, but we did not want to delay our response to you any further, so we are issuing a mandate determination separate from our report.
In preparation for this determination, DLM staff met with Superintendent Jordana B. Harper and Student Services Director Dianne Ellis from the Greenfield Public Schools. DLM also spoke with officials at the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, including Deputy Commissioner Jeffrey Wulfson, Legal Counsel Joshua Varon, Associate Commissioner Jay Sullivan, and Director of School Finance Robert O’Donnell. Finally, DLM researched whether the state ever provided funding for educational services provided to out-of-district foster care students. The Commonwealth did provide for the reimbursement of educational services to out-of-district foster care students until fiscal year 2001. However, funding ceased after fiscal year 2001.
This is not the first time DLM has received a petition regarding G.L. c. 76, § 7. In 1989, DLM received a petition from the City of Worcester which raised 11 items of concern, including issues related to special education notifications, language education in schools and testing preparation.3 4 5 These issues were later reviewed by the Supreme Judicial Court in 1994.
Although we understand that providing services to out-of-district foster care students is a significant financial cost, DLM concludes that the Local Mandate Law does not apply to the issue you raised because there was no substantial change in the law that imposed a new burden on Greenfield.