The Ohio Attorney General’s office (AG) has issued an opinion regarding the obligations of education costs for students placed in out-of-state residential facilities. And while the opinion is not controlling on the courts, they may refer to it when making decisions.
There has long been confusion regarding financial responsibility for the education costs of a child in the custody of a public service agency who is placed in a private residential facility outside the state of Ohio. Is it the responsibility of the board of education of the student’s home school district, the board of education of the school district the student is moving to, or another public entity in Ohio?
The AG concluded that when an abused, neglected or dependent child is in the custody of a public agency and then placed in a private, out-of-state residential facility, in a state that is a member of the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children, the school district designated by the court will be responsible for the costs of educating that child. The court will decide which school district holds that responsibility, based on which district is the student’s “school district of residence” under the Ohio Revised Code. Depending on a number of variables, including whether the child receives special education, different provisions of the Ohio Revised Code apply to determine which school district is the child’s “school district of residence.”
The AG based this conclusion on the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children, which was adopted by Ohio in 2006. The Interstate Compact continues the care provided by a public agency when a child is placed in another state. The state that sends the child retains jurisdiction over related custody matters. The Interstate Compact does not determine the distribution or division of costs for educating the child. However, it does provide that such costs should be divided and assessed as they would have been if the child was placed in Ohio. For children residing in Ohio, who are in the custody of a public agency, the Ohio Revised Code designates the child’s “school district of residence” as the district responsible for the child’s educational costs. Therefore, the AG concluded the child’s “school district of residence,” as determined by the applicable provisions of the Ohio Revised Code, would likewise be responsible for the educational costs of a child’s out-of-state placement.
Although the opinion is informative, it is only general guidance. It does however highlight the need for school districts to ensure that, if they are designated the “school district of residence” for a child, the court’s determination is correct. If the school district determines that it is not the child’s “school district of residence,” steps should be taken immediately to rectify the situation due to the potential costs involved. Additionally, school districts should remember that different provisions of the Ohio Revised Code apply to “school district of residence” determinations depending on the circumstances (e.g., child requiring special education, incarcerated parent, etc.). Districts should work directly with legal counsel regarding specific situations.