May 22, 2013

Comptroller Maragos: Preschool Special Education Program Requires Improved Oversight

Mineola, NY - An audit released by Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos of the County’s $115 million Preschool Special Education program found no significant issues affecting children; however, it identifies steps that can safeguard the quality of the education and that may decrease the cost of providing preschool special education services. The audit covered the period 2009 and 2010.

“This program provides essential services to our preschool children with special needs,” Comptroller Maragos said. “It is critical for the Department of Health to continually look for greater efficiencies and improve oversight to ensure that children receive the help they need to overcome early challenges while the taxpayers are protected.”

The audit recommends greater oversight, suggesting increased municipal representatives at key evaluation meetings and more frequent inspections of service providers. Additionally, a number of administrative recommendations are provided to reduce costs without compromising the quality of the children’s education.

The major report recommendations are:

  • The DOH representatives should ensure that all children’s evaluation meetings at local school districts are attended by County representatives. DOH representatives attended only 64% of meetings whereas neighboring counties covered 75%-85%. Their attendance discourages the approval of inappropriate services.
  • The DOH should review every service provider every 2-3 years.  Only three of 200 providers were reviewed in 2009. The DOH has indicated that subsequent to the audit they have reviewed seventeen providers and will continue to review all.
  • The DOH should better track and compare the program’s administrative costs to call State attention to unusual fluctuations. The audit revealed that although preschool costs as a whole rose only 2% over a five year period, local school districts’ administrative costs rose 26%.

The recommendations in our report are essential to ensure that all preschool special education services are provided in the best interest of the children, and not for the contractors providing them,” Comptroller Maragos added.

PDF Operational Review of the Nassau County Department of Health’s Preschool Special Education Program

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