Study of the Fiscal and Operational Efficiency of Oregon’s Regional and Early Intervention/Early Childhood Special Education Programs

Executive Summary

The Oregon Department of Education (ODE) contracted with AIR to conduct an independent assessment and analysis of the fiscal and operational efficiency of the State of Oregon’s Early Intervention and Early Childhood Special Education (EI/ECSE) and Regional Low Incidence Programs. To answer ODE’s research questions, we conducted extant document review and data analysis, gathered stakeholder input, conducted three site visits to ESDs with both EI/ECSE and Regional programs, and conducted phone interviews with all non-visited EI/ECSE and Regional programs.

Through qualitative data analysis and triangulation of data sources, we identified overarching and program-specific findings. Overarching findings related to the following topical areas: funding and resources; administrative structure; extensive travel time; staff shortages; accountability and paperwork; technical assistance and communication; and issues surrounding parents such as support and resources. Findings specific to the EI/ECSE programs related to child find, child identification, and ease of finding services; services in the natural setting; space for service provision; and billing for Medicaid. Lastly, findings specific to Regional Program provision included updating the basic service model; reconsideration of regional service eligibility; and clarifying identification of core services.

Based on the findings, we developed a number of recommendations. The overall recommendations for both programs are:

  1. Seek greater alignment with K-12 special education funding
  2. Streamline regionalization
  3. Ease the EI/ECSE and Regional service bid process while fostering competition in provision
  4. Streamline the data collection requirements and standardize record keeping
  5. Develop state benchmarks, goals, and objectives
  6. Address the statewide therapist shortage
  7. Re-think Medicaid billing

The report also included recommendations pertaining to the individual programs. For the EI/ECSE program, we recommended that the State take steps to stabilize space for EI/ECSE services; seek ways to increase services in natural settings; enhance public outreach by establishing a single point of entry; and bolster EI/ECSE parent support. With respect to the Regional Program, we recommended that the State re-conceptualize the state’s regional system of program provision regarding the nature of services provided and the basis for funding.

Overall, a great deal of confidence and pride was expressed in the State’s EI/ECSE and Regional programs. We were pleased to meet so many highly dedicated service providers and administrators who appeared quite passionate about providing quality special education services to children and families, and are highly appreciative of the high degree of cooperation and accommodation across all of the site visits for this study. The programs seem to have evolved on a regional basis and are currently transitioning toward a more unified statewide system of provision and support. The recommendations made in this report are intended to contribute to the move toward a single State vision and greater cohesion and service comparability across the State.