The Hawaii Department of Education responded Monday to Loveland Academy's claim that it would be closing at the end of July 2012.
DOE officials said they reached out to parents of students attending the private facility to discuss options. Subsequently, the DOE received a facsimile from Loveland, dated July 20, 2012, stating they are "not closing."
The DOE said students have been allowed to attend Loveland at public expense despite the department's placement recommendations, persistent objections to not being allowed to monitor students, and non-receipt of detailed billings.
"Our records indicate that the DOE has paid Loveland approximately 10 million dollars over the past two years," noted Ronn Nozoe, Deputy Superintendent. "Loveland charges the DOE approximately $250,000 per student, per school year."
The DOE said it has repeatedly asked Loveland to provide itemized bills and allow the DOE to observe and monitor the students, as required by law.
"Loveland’s ongoing inaction violates the law and is irresponsible," said Nozoe. "The DOE should be able to assure families that their sons and daughters enrolled at this private facility are receiving proper services and an appropriate education."
The DOE said it has been unable to ascertain whether students at these private facilities are being provided an appropriate education.
Even though these public school students attend private facilities, they are enrolled at public expense and the DOE has a continuing obligation under federal law to monitor them.
According to the DOE, the law states the following:
- The department shall be authorized to monitor any child eligible to receive special education and related services who is placed . . . in any private school or placement
- Any private school or placement that receives funding from the department for the placement of a student with a disability . . . shall allow the department access to exercise its authority under this subsection to monitor any student placed at the private school or placement
- Any private school or placement that receives funds from the department . . . shall post with the department by April of each year, the itemized rates, fees, and tuition to be charged for the following school year and shall charge the department the same itemized rates, fees, or tuition it charges parents, legal guardians, or legal custodians who unilaterally place a student at its school, program or facility
- The department shall only pay for services that are specified in a student's individualized education program.
The DOE said Loveland and the Pacific Autism Center, both private facilities located in Hawaii, have elected to ignore the new law by preventing observations, withholding student records, failing to post rates, and refusing to submit itemized billing statements.
The new law also requires the DOE to withhold payment on a case-by-case basis, until these private facilities comply with the law.