FR Doc E8-1528
[Federal Register: January 29, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 19)]
[Notices]               
[Page 5179-5182]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:fr29ja08-45]                     
                                                 


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DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION

 
Rehabilitation Training--Rehabilitation Continuing Education 
Program

AGENCY: Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, 
Department of Education.

ACTION: Notice of proposed priority.

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SUMMARY: The Assistant Secretary for Special Education and 
Rehabilitative Services proposes a priority under the Rehabilitation 
Continuing Education Program (RCEP) to fund regional Technical 
Assistance and Continuing Education (TACE) centers. The Assistant 
Secretary may use this priority for competitions in fiscal year (FY) 
2008 and later years. We take this action to improve the quantity and 
quality of employment outcomes for individuals with disabilities 
through enhanced technical assistance and continuing education for 
State vocational rehabilitation (VR) agencies and agency partners that 
cooperate with State VR agencies in providing VR and other 
rehabilitation services (e.g., Centers for Independent Living, Client 
Assistance Programs, and Community Rehabilitation Programs).

DATES: We must receive your comments on or before February 28, 2008.

ADDRESSES: Address all comments about this proposed priority to 
Christine Marschall, U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland Ave., 
SW., room 5053, Potomac Center Plaza, Washington, DC 20202-2800. If you 
prefer to send your comments through

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the Internet, use the following address: Christine.Marschall@ed.gov.
    You must include the term ``TACE Priority'' in the subject line of 
your electronic message.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Christine Marschall. Telephone: (202) 
245-7429 or via Internet: Christine.Marschall@ed.gov.
    If you use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), you may 
call the Federal Relay Service (FRS) at 1-800-877-8339.
    Individuals with disabilities may obtain this document in an 
alternative format (e.g., Braille, large print, audiotape, or computer 
diskette) on request to the contact person listed under FOR FURTHER 
INFORMATION CONTACT.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Invitation to Comment

    We invite you to submit comments regarding this proposed priority.
    We invite you to assist us in complying with the specific 
requirements of Executive Order 12866 and its overall requirement of 
reducing regulatory burden that might result from this proposed 
priority. Please let us know of any further opportunities we should 
take to reduce potential costs or increase potential benefits while 
preserving the effective and efficient administration of the program.
    During and after the comment period, you may inspect all public 
comments about this proposed priority in room 5053, Potomac Center 
Plaza, 550 12th Street, SW., Washington, DC, between the hours of 8:30 
a.m. and 4 p.m., Eastern time, Monday through Friday of each week 
except Federal holidays.

Assistance to Individuals With Disabilities in Reviewing the Rulemaking 
Record

    On request, we will supply an appropriate aid, such as a reader or 
print magnifier, to an individual with a disability who needs 
assistance to review the comments or other documents in the public 
rulemaking record for this proposed priority. If you want to schedule 
an appointment for this type of aid, please contact the person listed 
under FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT.

Background

    The RCEP has traditionally provided continuing education to 
employees of State VR agencies and agency partners that cooperate with 
State VR agencies in providing VR and other rehabilitation services. 
Through the RCEP the Department currently supports 11 regional programs 
that focus on training employees and professionals of State VR 
agencies, Centers for Independent Living (CILs), and Client Assistance 
Programs (CAPs) and 10 regional programs that focus on training 
professionals of Community Rehabilitation Programs (CRPs).
    Over the past two years, the Department's Rehabilitation Services 
Administration (RSA) has enhanced its program monitoring of State VR 
agencies to not only evaluate program compliance, but also to assist 
State VR agencies improve the quantity and quality of employment 
outcomes for individuals with disabilities. One result of RSA's 
enhanced monitoring has been the ability to identify the needs of State 
VR agencies for technical assistance and continuing education in such 
areas as improving quality assurance, using program data for program 
improvement, and managing personnel effectively.
    On March 6, 2007, the Assistant Secretary for Special Education and 
Rehabilitative Services solicited public comments and recommendations 
regarding the RSA Rehabilitation Training program through a notice 
published in the Federal Register (72 FR 9942). The public comments and 
recommendations received in response to this notice generally support 
the role of the RCEP in providing technical assistance and continuing 
education. Many of the comments and recommendations also support 
maintaining the regional model of service provision for the program 
because it enables each regional RCEP center to be knowledgeable about 
the unique demographic, economic, and service needs of the State VR 
agencies in its region, and to tailor its continuing education and 
technical assistance activities to meet those needs.
    Additionally, needs assessments conducted by the Department's 
current RCEP grantees indicate that technical assistance and continuing 
education for both the State VR agency and the agency partners are 
needed to improve employment outcomes for individuals with 
disabilities.
    To address the need for technical assistance and continuing 
education, RSA seeks to revise the structure of the RCEP. Rather than 
supporting two types of Regional Centers as has been done under the 
current RCEP model--those serving State VR agencies, CILS, and CAPs and 
those serving CRPs--RSA seeks to fund 10 regional Technical Assistance 
and Continuing Education (TACE) centers to provide technical assistance 
and continuing education for both employees of State VR agencies and 
all agency partners (e.g., CILs, CAPs and CRPs). The integration of 
these activities in each regional center would help ensure that State 
VR agencies and all agency partners are provided with consistent 
information and strategies that can be implemented by State VR agencies 
and all agency partners to improve VR service delivery and the quality 
and quantity of employment outcomes for individuals with disabilities. 
In addition, the integration of the two types of RCEPs would result in 
greater administrative efficiency because the RCEPs that served the 
State VR agencies, CILs and CAPs and the RCEPs that served the CRPs 
frequently developed materials and provided training on similar topics. 
The reduction of overhead costs resulting from combining the two types 
of RCEPs would enable more RSA funds to be devoted to providing 
technical assistance and continuing education.
    We will announce the final priority in a notice in the Federal 
Register. We will determine the final priority after considering 
responses to this notice and other information available to the 
Department. This notice does not preclude us from proposing or funding 
additional priorities, subject to meeting applicable rulemaking 
requirements.

    Note: This notice does not solicit applications. In any year in 
which we choose to use this proposed priority, we invite 
applications through a notice in the Federal Register. When inviting 
applications we designate the priority as absolute, competitive 
preference, or invitational. The effect of each type of priority 
follows:
    Absolute priority: Under an absolute priority we consider only 
applications that meet the priority (34 CFR 75.105(c)(3)).
    Competitive preference priority: Under a competitive preference 
priority we give competitive preference to an application by either 
(1) awarding additional points, depending on how well or the extent 
to which the application meets the competitive priority (34 CFR 
75.105(c)(2)(i)); or (2) selecting an application that meets the 
competitive priority over an application of comparable merit that 
does not meet the priority (34 CFR 75.105(c)(2)(ii)).
    Invitational priority: Under an invitational priority we are 
particularly interested in applications that meet the invitational 
priority. However, we do not give an application that meets the 
invitational priority a competitive or absolute preference over 
other applications (34 CFR 75.105(c)(1)).

    Priority: Proposed Priority--Regional Technical Assistance and 
Continuing Education (TACE) Centers.
    The Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative 
Services proposes a priority to establish 10 regional TACE centers to 
provide (1) technical assistance to State VR agencies and agency 
partners that cooperate with State VR agencies in providing VR and

[[Page 5181]]

other rehabilitation services to improve services required under the 
Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, and (2) continuing education to 
employees of State VR agencies and agency partners.
    Under this priority, the TACE centers must contribute to the 
following outcomes: Improved quality of VR services, increased 
effectiveness and efficiency of State VR agencies in delivering VR 
services, and improved quantity and quality of VR employment outcomes 
for individuals with disabilities. The TACE centers must contribute to 
these outcomes by providing technical assistance and continuing 
education, either directly or through contract, to employees of State 
VR agencies and agency partners on topics that are identified jointly 
by RSA and each center's advisory committee and included in the 
center's work plan.
    Under this priority, applicants must demonstrate their ability to 
respond rapidly to a broad range of technical assistance and continuing 
education needs. Applicants must provide evidence in their applications 
that they have expertise, or access to subject-matter experts with 
experience, in conducting technical assistance and continuing education 
in such areas of need as the improvement of VR agencies' service 
delivery; practices and interventions related to specific VR 
populations; quality assurance; case management at the administrative 
and counselor level; the use of assistive technology to achieve 
employment goals; personnel management (e.g., staff retention 
strategies); fiscal management; data management; communication skills 
development; development of individualized plans for employment; 
development of VR State plans; and strategic planning.
    Under this priority, each TACE center must--
    1. Establish, in consultation with RSA, an annual work plan 
describing activities that the center will conduct to assist State VR 
agencies to accomplish the goals identified in their VR State plans and 
to achieve other performance and compliance goals identified by RSA's 
monitoring reports. The work plan must identify the nature and scope, 
including delivery means and methods, of the technical assistance and 
continuing education to be provided by the center;
    2. Conduct an annual needs assessment to identify technical 
assistance and continuing education needs of State VR agencies and 
agency partners in its region, as applicable. Each center must base its 
annual needs assessment on a thorough review of VR State plans, on-site 
monitoring reports and annual review reports issued by RSA, other 
performance and compliance information available from RSA and State VR 
agencies, and other data, as appropriate;
    3. Establish a center advisory committee to provide input on the 
annual needs assessments conducted by the center in accordance with 
paragraph (2) of this priority. In addition to the requirements in 34 
CFR 385.40 for mandatory members of the center advisory committee, the 
committee must include representatives from Independent Living Training 
and Technical Assistance grantees and RSA representatives as ex-officio 
members.

    Note: Members of minority groups are listed in 34 CFR 385.40 as 
one of the categories of mandatory participants on rehabilitation 
training advisory committees. However, the Department intends to 
publish a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to amend 34 CFR 
385.40, which would remove the requirement that an applicant include 
members of minority groups on all project advisory committees. The 
NPRM would add a requirement that an applicant include individuals 
who are knowledgeable about the special needs of individuals with 
disabilities from diverse groups, including minority groups. The 
purpose of this change would be to more clearly reflect the intent 
of the Department that project advisory committees include 
individuals who are familiar with the needs of individuals with 
disabilities from diverse groups, rather than individuals who are 
just members of such groups.

    4. Participate as an observer in RSA's triennial monitoring of 
State VR agencies in its region by attending, at a minimum, each State 
VR agency's monitoring exit conference in order to gain a thorough 
understanding of each State VR agency's technical assistance and 
continuing education needs;
    5. Collaborate with other TACE centers to provide technical 
assistance and continuing education as efficiently as possible to 
employees of State VR agencies and agency partners that have similar 
needs;
    6. Coordinate services with other entities that provide technical 
assistance to State VR agencies and agency partners, including, but not 
limited to, Independent Living Training and Technical Assistance 
grantees and Assistive Technology projects funded under the 
Department's Assistive Technology program; and
    7. Evaluate how well each technical assistance and continuing 
education activity provided by the center meets a targeted area of need 
(e.g., the improvement of VR agencies' service delivery; practices and 
interventions related to specific VR populations; quality assurance), 
based on goals and objectives established for the activity in the 
center's work plan. Each center must provide data on each training and 
technical assistance activity it conducts, including the topic of the 
activity, the number and types of personnel and agencies participating 
in the activity, participant evaluations of the effectiveness of the 
activity, and any other data required by the Department. Each center 
must include the results of its evaluation in its annual performance 
report. RSA will convene an independent review panel to evaluate the 
work of the centers. The independent review panel will use the 
following performance measures: (a) The percentage of technical 
assistance and continuing education services provided by the center 
that are deemed to be of high quality; (b) the percentage of technical 
assistance and continuing education services provided by the center 
that are deemed to be of high relevance to State VR policies or 
practices; and (c) the percentage of technical assistance and 
continuing education services provided by the center that are deemed to 
be useful in improving State VR agency policies or practices.

Executive Order 12866

    This notice of proposed priority (NPP) has been reviewed in 
accordance with Executive Order 12866. Under the terms of the order, we 
have assessed the potential costs and benefits of this regulatory 
action.
    The potential costs associated with the NPP are those resulting 
from statutory requirements and those we have determined as necessary 
for administering this program effectively and efficiently.
    In assessing the potential costs and benefits--both quantitative 
and qualitative--of this NPP, we have determined that the benefits of 
the proposed priority justify the costs.
    We have also determined that this regulatory action does not unduly 
interfere with State, local, and tribal governments in the exercise of 
their governmental functions.
    Summary of potential costs and benefits: Potential costs of the 
proposed priority include costs of establishing and administrating the 
program, conducting the annual needs assessments, providing technical 
assistance and continuing education, conducting the annual evaluation, 
and preparing and filing required reports. The benefits of the program 
are improved VR employment outcomes for individuals with disabilities 
as a result of technical assistance and continuing education activities 
and decreased

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administrative costs because the technical assistance and continuing 
education activities in each region are provided by one center rather 
than two centers.

Intergovernmental Review

    This program is subject to Executive Order 12372 and the 
regulations in 34 CFR part 79. One of the objectives of the Executive 
order is to foster an intergovernmental partnership and a strengthened 
federalism. The Executive order relies on processes developed by State 
and local governments for coordination and review of proposed Federal 
financial assistance.
    This document provides early notification of our specific plans and 
actions for this program. Applicable Program Regulations: 34 CFR parts 
385 and 389.

Electronic Access to This Document

    You may view this document, as well as all other Department of 
Education documents published in the Federal Register, in text or Adobe 
Portable Document Format (PDF) on the Internet at the following site: 
http://www.ed.gov/news/fedregister/index.html.

    To use PDF you must have Adobe Acrobat Reader, which is available 
free at this site. If you have questions about using PDF, call the U.S. 
Government Printing Office (GPO), toll free, at 1-888-293-6498; or in 
the Washington, DC, area at (202) 512-1530.

    Note: The official version of this document is the document 
published in the Federal Register. Free Internet access to the 
official edition of the Federal Register and the Code of Federal 
Regulations is available on GPO Access at: 
http://www.gpoaccess.gov/nara/index.html.

(Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance Number 84.264A 
Rehabilitation Continuing Education Program).

    Program Authority: 29 U.S.C. 772.

    Dated: January 24, 2008.
Tracy R. Justesen,
Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services.
 [FR Doc. E8-1528 Filed 1-28-08; 8:45 am]

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