Four Rivers Hits Snag With IDEA Funding From Member Districts

By Benjamin Cox on April 30, 2023 at 9:22am

Four Rivers Special Education District has run into a snag on how it receives funds for its services from its member schools.

In 2018, the Illinois State Board of Education changed the way funds were distributed for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act funds from the federal government. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Special Education, which monitors IDEA funds, now requires the money to be granted directly to districts and then districts could choose to use those funds specifically to pay for services from special education cooperatives like Four Rivers.

Four Rivers District Financial Assistant Kirsten Pratt said during today’s Four Rivers meeting that a recent audit of IDEA funding at the Barry-Western School District has called for the way Four Rivers handles their IDEA fund billing to member school districts to change: “What we need to do is when we transitioned to the grant to the districts, the consensus from the member districts was we wanted to keep it as close to the same as how [the funds] have been handled in the past. [The district’s] grant allocation, [Four Rivers] billed you for your grant allocation, because when the money came to us, we used the funds on your behalf. When it started coming to you, we billed you for the funds for the services we provide. The Illinois State Board of Education’s auditor doesn’t like us billing you for the amount of your allocation from the IDEA grant. Basically, we need to now come up with a reasonable basis as far as billing you for the grant for services.”

Pratt says that member districts will have a number of option to choose on how their Articles of Joint Agreement for payment will work. Districts can either continue to receive 3 separate payments throughout the year or monthly allocations based upon the services rendered based upon a local assessment. The local assessment will be based upon individual enrollment of the member school districts. Member districts will now have the option to pay Four Rivers out of their IDEA traunch or through their general funds for services.

None of the member districts present for the meeting expressed any concern about impacts to school special education services operations.

No action was taken on the matter as more action is expected near the end of the school year for next month’s meeting.