Rehabilitation Training-Rehabilitation Continuing Education Program, 32010-32016 [E8-12636]

Download as PDF 32010 Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 109 / Thursday, June 5, 2008 / Notices following site: http://www.ed.gov/news/ fedregister. 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: www.gpoaccess.gov/nara/ index.html. Dated: June 2, 2008. Tracy R. Justesen, Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services. [FR Doc. E8–12633 Filed 6–4–08; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4000–01–P DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION Rehabilitation Training—Rehabilitation Continuing Education Program Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, Department of Education. ACTION: Notice of final priority. AGENCY: SUMMARY: The Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services announces 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 (TA) and continuing education (CE) 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 (CILs), Client Assistance Programs (CAPs), and Community Rehabilitation Programs (CRPs)). Effective Date: This priority is effective July 7, 2008. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Christine Marschall, U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland Ave., SW., Room 5053, Potomac Center Plaza, Washington, DC 20202–2800. Telephone: (202) 245–7429 or via Internet: Christine.Marschall@ed.gov. If you use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), call the yshivers on PROD1PC62 with NOTICES DATES: VerDate Aug<31>2005 14:51 Jun 04, 2008 Jkt 214001 Federal Relay Service (FRS) at 1–800– 877–8339. Individuals with disabilities can 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. Through this priority, the Department revises the current structure of the RCEP, which includes 21 regional RCEP centers—11 centers that serve primarily State VR agencies and 10 centers that serve primarily CRPs. Instead of funding these two separate sets of centers, this priority supports 10 regional Technical Assistance and Continuing Education (TACE) centers to serve State VR agencies and agency partners that cooperate with State VR agencies in providing VR and other rehabilitation services. CRPs are among the agency partners that the TACE centers are expected to serve. While the current RCEP centers provide CE and limited TA to entities, TACE centers will provide both TA and CE as necessary to respond to the needs of the State VR agencies and agency partners served by the TACE centers. We published a notice of proposed priority (NPP) for this program in the Federal Register on January 29, 2008 (73 FR 5179). The NPP included a discussion of the issues associated with modifying the RCEP structure. The background section of the NPP explained that the results of the Department’s Rehabilitation Services Administration’s (RSA) program monitoring required by section 107 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, and the needs assessments conducted by current RCEP grantees indicated the need to integrate and coordinate services provided to State VR agencies and agency partners that cooperate with State VR agencies in providing VR and other rehabilitation services, including CRPs. The NPP also explained that the modified RCEP structure would reduce administrative costs by combining the functions of the two sets of centers and that public comments on the Rehabilitation Training Program, solicited through a notice in the Federal Register (72 FR 9942), generally supported the role of the RCEP in providing TA and CE and the provision of these services through a regional model. The final priority announced in this notice contains differences from the priority proposed in the NPP. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: PO 00000 Frm 00061 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Analysis of Comments and Changes In response to our invitation in the NPP, 79 parties submitted comments on the proposed priority. An analysis of the comments and of any changes in the priority since publication of the NPP follows. Multiple commenters raised a number of similar issues; therefore, we group major issues by subject area. Generally, we do not address technical and other minor changes and suggested changes the law does not authorize us to make under the applicable statutory authority. Agency Partners Comment: Fifty-four commenters requested that specific entities be added to the list of agency partners with whom State VR agencies cooperate to provide VR and other rehabilitative services. Various commenters recommended that the following entities be added: American Indian Vocational Rehabilitation Service programs (30 commenters); State Rehabilitation Councils (SRCs) (nine commenters); Migrant and Seasonal Farmworker programs (seven commenters); CILs (six commenters); Statewide Independent Living Councils (one commenter); and State agencies such as developmental disability, mental illness, and substance abuse agencies (one commenter). Discussion: The agency partners included in the priority are examples of agencies with which State VR agencies cooperate to provide VR and other rehabilitative services; the list of agencies provided is not intended to be exhaustive. The entities suggested by the commenters could be agency partners—that is, if a State VR agency cooperates with any one of these entities to provide VR and other rehabilitative services, that entity would be considered an agency partner for purposes of this priority. Changes: None. Consolidation of the Regional Centers Comment: Twenty-three commenters stated that CRPs will not be served adequately under the modified RCEP structure, and six commenters stated that the TA and CE needs of CRPs are significantly different from the needs of State VR agencies. Discussion: This priority focuses on the needs of State VR agencies and their agency partners. RSA values the contribution of the CRPs in the VR service system and recognizes that CRPs may have TA and CE needs that are different from those of the State VR agency and its other agency partners. RSA expects that the needs of CRPs, along with the needs of other agency E:\FR\FM\05JNN1.SGM 05JNN1 yshivers on PROD1PC62 with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 109 / Thursday, June 5, 2008 / Notices partners, will be reflected in the annual needs assessment that will serve as the foundation for each TACE center’s work plan. Changes: None. Comment: Two commenters asked whether the 10 TACE centers will provide the employment certificate series training that the RCEP centers serving CRPs currently provide. Discussion: The TA and CE provided by each TACE center will be determined by each TACE center with input from RSA after the TACE center conducts an annual needs assessment of the State VR agency and agency partners in the TACE center’s region. While the TACE centers are not required to provide the employment certificate series training referred to by the commenter, nothing in the priority prohibits a TACE center from doing so if it meets a need identified by the State VR agency or its agency partners. Changes: None. Comment: Twenty-three commenters stated that the TACE centers should balance the time and resources devoted to address TA needs, on the one hand, and CE needs, on the other. Twelve commenters stated that the proposed priority appears to emphasize TA more than CE. Discussion: We do not agree that the priority places a greater emphasis on TA than CE. The priority clearly states that each TACE center must conduct an annual needs assessment to identify the TA and CE needs of State VR agencies and agency partners. Based on the annual needs assessment, each TACE center will determine and describe in its work plan the distribution of resources that will be devoted to TA and CE activities. Changes: None. Comment: One commenter expressed concern that the 10 TACE centers will not be able to handle the high volume of TA and CE requests as well as the 21 currently funded RCEP centers. Discussion: We expect the 10 TACE centers to be able to handle the high volume of TA and CE requests as well as the 21 currently funded RCEP centers because we believe that these 10 centers will provide TA and CE more effectively and efficiently than the current 21 RCEP centers. Because each region will have one TACE center to serve all State VR agencies and agency partners in that region and because RSA will coordinate across the TACE centers on a national level, the modified structure will facilitate sharing materials and information, and coordinating TA and CE activities, as appropriate, within and across regions. The annual needs assessment and work plan requirements VerDate Aug<31>2005 14:51 Jun 04, 2008 Jkt 214001 in the priority will also help focus resources more effectively. We believe that the modified structure of the program will decrease duplication of effort and enhance coordination between State VR agencies and their agency partners. In addition, fewer resources will be expended on administrative costs because there will be one center in each region rather than two. Changes: None. Comment: Six commenters expressed concern that the relationships that have been developed over time among the current RCEP centers, State VR agencies, and agency partners will be lost in the modified RCEP structure supported by the TACE center priority. Discussion: The modified structure of the RCEP program is designed to ensure collaboration between the TACE center, the State VR agency and agency partners served, and RSA. We believe that this collaboration will result in increased coordination of TA and CE provided to State VR agencies and agency partners and enhance relationships among the TACE centers, State VR agencies, and agency partners. Further, we believe that each TACE center’s advisory committee will provide an opportunity for the advisory committee members who represent State VR agencies, among others, to develop and sustain relationships. Changes: None. Funding Comment: Eighteen commenters stated that requiring the TACE centers to take on more TA responsibilities than the current RCEP centers will require more funds than those allocated to the current RCEP centers. Fourteen commenters stated that the same amount of funds currently provided to the 21 RCEP grantees should be provided to the 10 TACE centers in order for the new RCEP structure to be effective. Discussion: The estimated level of funding for the TACE centers will be included in the notice inviting applications for new awards. We do not anticipate maintaining the same level of funds for the TACE centers that has been available under the current structure of the RCEP program. One of the major reasons for the changes in the RCEP program is to facilitate close coordination within each TACE center and among the TACE centers in order to maximize the effective use of funds to meet the TA and CE needs of the State VR agencies and their agency partners. To help ensure collaboration among TACE centers, RSA will coordinate activities of the TACE centers at the PO 00000 Frm 00062 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 32011 national level. We believe that the increased coordination within each TACE center and across centers will result in significant administrative efficiencies that will offset some of the expected funding differential. Changes: None. Comment: Three commenters asked how available funds for the RCEP program will be allocated and whether the geographic size of regions will be considered when funds are allocated to the TACE centers. Discussion: All TACE centers will receive the same base funding amount. Additional funding will be provided to individual TACE centers based on the number of State VR agency staff in the region each TACE center serves, as identified in the most recently published data from the RSA–2, the Annual VR Program/Cost Report. We will not base our funding allocations on the geographic size of regions because we do not believe that the size of a region alone should affect the level of services provided—since there are multiple ways to conduct TA and provide CE in addition to face-to-face meetings, such as video conferencing and Webcasts. Changes: None. Comment: One commenter stated that the majority of funds provided to the TACE centers should be used to address TA and CE needs of State VR agencies. Another commenter asked whether the TACE centers would share staff training costs with the State VR agencies they serve as they do under the current RCEP structure. Discussion: The use of funds for TA and CE will be determined by each TACE center based on the TACE center’s annual needs assessment (developed with input from its advisory committee) and the TACE center’s annual work plan (developed with input from RSA). Nothing in the priority prohibits the majority of funds provided to the TACE centers from being used to address TA and CE needs of State VR agencies. However, we do not believe that it is appropriate to require all TACE centers to use the majority of their funding under this program to address these needs. With regard to sharing training costs, while nothing in this priority requires a TACE center to share staff training costs with the State VR agencies it serves, nothing in the priority prohibits the TACE center from doing so. Changes: None. RSA Involvement With the TACE Centers Comment: Twenty-eight commenters expressed concern that the priority gives E:\FR\FM\05JNN1.SGM 05JNN1 yshivers on PROD1PC62 with NOTICES 32012 Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 109 / Thursday, June 5, 2008 / Notices RSA too much control over the decision-making of the TACE centers and that, as a result, each TACE center’s needs assessment and annual work plan will be dictated by RSA and not adequately consider the needs of the State VR agency and its agency partners. Discussion: Under the priority, the TACE centers must work in consultation with RSA to establish their annual work plans, which describe the activities the TACE centers will carry out during each year of their project. We believe that this level of RSA involvement in and approval of the work plan is critical to ensure that the TACE centers are familiar with relevant information from RSA’s State monitoring activities and to facilitate alignment of the TA and CE provided by the TACE centers with the VR service system in each State and across States. Given the need to ensure coordination of the work of the TACE centers at the national level, we believe it is important for RSA to approve all TACE center annual work plans. While the TACE model provides RSA with the authority to approve each center’s work plan, RSA recognizes that, in order for the TACE centers to be effective, the TACE centers must work with the State VR agencies and agency partners to ensure more integrated decision-making with regard to the needs of State VR agencies and agency partners within and across the regions. Changes: Priority paragraph (1) has been amended to clarify that each TACE center must establish an annual work plan, in coordination with and subject to the approval of RSA. Comment: Nine commenters stated that TA should be RSA’s responsibility, not the TACE centers’ responsibility. One commenter stated that there is a need to explain the difference between the TA provided by the TACE centers and that provided by RSA. Discussion: RSA will utilize the TACE centers to supplement the TA it provides. In light of RSA’s program monitoring and the needs assessments conducted by current RCEP grantees that indicate a significant need for TA, we believe that supplementing RSA’s provision of TA is beneficial to State VR agencies and agency partners, and ultimately individuals with disabilities receiving services from State VR agencies and agency partners. RSA—not the TACE centers—will provide TA on the interpretation of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, and its regulations. TACE centers will provide TA to State VR agencies and agency partners to assist them in improving their performance in areas such as program management and delivery of VR services to increase and improve VerDate Aug<31>2005 14:51 Jun 04, 2008 Jkt 214001 employment outcomes for individuals with disabilities. Changes: None. Needs Assessment and Work Plan Comment: The comments of 26 individuals indicated that there was confusion about the relationship between the annual needs assessment and the annual work plan, as well as the role of a TACE center’s advisory committee. Discussion: The proposed priority specified that each TACE center would conduct an annual needs assessment, with input from its advisory committee, and develop an annual work plan, with input from RSA. However, we agree that the proposed priority was not clear about how the results of the needs assessment would be used to develop the annual work plan. We intend that the annual work plan, developed in cooperation with RSA and approved by RSA, will take into consideration the TA and CE needs of State VR agencies and agency partners that are identified in the TACE center’s annual needs assessment. We do not expect each annual work plan to address all of the needs identified in the needs assessment. We understand that, due to limited resources, each TACE center will prioritize needs to be addressed in the annual work plan. Changes: We have modified paragraph (1) of the priority to make clear that annual work plans must consider, but not necessarily address, the TA and CE needs of State VR agencies and agency partners identified in the TACE center’s annual needs assessment. Comment: Four commenters stated that the needs assessment should consider what the State VR agencies and agency partners say they need and not be based solely on RSA-generated data. Eighteen commenters stated that the State VR agencies in a TACE center’s region should be consulted in the development of the TACE center’s needs assessment and that a representative from State VR agencies in the region should be a member of a center’s advisory committee. Discussion: As specified in paragraph (2) of the priority, each TACE center’s annual needs assessment must be based on the needs of State VR agencies and agency partners in its region. The priority lists several sources of information that will be important for each TACE center to consider in its annual needs assessment, including information from VR State plans, on-site monitoring reports, and annual review reports issued by RSA. A TACE center’s needs assessment, therefore, could not be based solely on PO 00000 Frm 00063 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 RSA-generated data. In addition, paragraph (3) of the priority requires each TACE center to solicit input from its advisory committee members in developing the needs assessment and to use this information in developing its annual work plan. Members of the advisory committee include, at a minimum, the entities listed in 34 CFR 385.40 as well as those additional entities listed in paragraph (3) of the priority. We believe that adding a representative from each State VR agency in a TACE center’s region will increase opportunities for State VR agencies to inform the TACE center about their needs and to provide input into a TACE center’s annual work plan. For this reason, we are modifying the priority to require each TACE center to invite a representative from the State VR agencies in the TACE center’s region to participate on its advisory committee. Changes: Paragraph (3) of the priority has been modified to require a TACE center to invite a representative from each State VR agency in its region to participate on its advisory committee. Comment: Fifteen commenters stated that basing the needs assessment on VR State plans will result in a reactive and deficiency-based needs assessment (i.e., one that intends only to remediate skills identified as ineffective through RSA monitoring), rather than a proactive needs assessment (i.e., one that considers the development of new professional skills of staff as a valuable activity). One commenter stated that TA should be focused on VR State plans. Discussion: VR State plans document the agency’s goals and priorities for the upcoming fiscal year, including the strategies that the agency will undertake to achieve them. Using the VR State plans as one source of information in the needs assessment process enhances the needs assessments’ relevance to State VR agencies’ goals and priorities. It was not the intent of the priority that the needs assessment be based solely on VR State plans. These plans are listed as one of the data sources to be reviewed when conducting the needs assessment. Paragraph (2) of the priority lists several other sources of data that must be considered in the annual needs assessment, including on-site monitoring reports and annual review reports issued by RSA, other performance and compliance information from RSA and State VR agencies, and other data, as appropriate. We also do not intend for the needs assessment in this priority to be a deficiency-based model. Instead, we expect that the needs assessment process will be guided by each TACE center’s advisory committee to ensure E:\FR\FM\05JNN1.SGM 05JNN1 yshivers on PROD1PC62 with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 109 / Thursday, June 5, 2008 / Notices that TA and CE are provided both to remediate deficits and to support new professional development. Each TACE center will make collaborative decisions with RSA about the TA and CE to be provided through the annual work plan based on the needs identified using these multiple data sources. Changes: None. Comment: Eleven commenters disagreed with the requirement that TACE center representatives attend State VR agency monitoring exit conferences conducted by RSA. The commenters stated that the presence of TACE center staff would give the impression that the TACE centers have monitoring responsibilities. Three commenters stated that the exit conference is the wrong time to have the TACE centers involved in the monitoring process because the process is incomplete at that time; instead, the commenters recommended that the TACE centers be involved after the issuance of a State’s final monitoring report. Discussion: The priority does not assign monitoring responsibilities to the TACE centers. Rather, the priority requires that the TACE centers serve as observers in RSA’s monitoring of State VR agencies in their region by participating, at a minimum, in each State VR agency’s monitoring exit conference in order to gain a thorough understanding of each State VR agency’s TA and CE needs. It is important to retain the requirement that TACE center representatives participate in State VR agency monitoring exit conferences because these exit conferences provide significant information about the TA and CE needs of the State VR agency and agency partners. Requiring that TACE center staff participate in the exit conferences is worthwhile because of the early, additional insight the TACE centers will gain. Once the final report is issued, the TACE centers will consider the report’s recommendations in their needs assessment and in the development of their work plan. Changes: None. Comment: Five commenters stated that, given limited funding, a single center couldn’t be expected to have expertise in the 12 areas identified in the third paragraph of the priority. Two commenters stated that the 12 areas in which a TACE center must demonstrate expertise focus on the needs of the State VR agency and do not include areas that apply to agency partners. One commenter stated that the State VR agency should have input on the subject matter experts selected by its regional TACE center to provide TA and CE. VerDate Aug<31>2005 14:51 Jun 04, 2008 Jkt 214001 Discussion: One of the purposes of the TACE centers is to ensure that State VR agencies and agency partners receive the TA and CE they need to improve program performance. The expertise areas identified are included to address the needs of agency partners in the activities the agency partners undertake in cooperation with the State VR agency in the provision of VR and other rehabilitation services authorized under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended (Act). The 12 expertise areas included in the third paragraph of the priority were identified based on the following: An assessment of the TA needs of State VR agencies and SRCs; RSA’s monitoring reviews required by section 107 of the Act; and RSA’s review of annual VR State plans. Based on this information, we have determined that it is important to require applicants to demonstrate that they have expertise or access to subjectmatter experts in at least these areas in order to provide effective TA and CE under this priority. The priority requires an applicant to describe how it will access expertise in at least these 12 areas, but it does not require the applicant to have experts on staff in all 12 areas. Thus, we disagree that this requirement will be too costly for TACE center grantees. We recognize that other areas of need may arise through the needs assessment and do not wish to limit the areas of expertise to those identified in the priority. Therefore, we have changed the priority to clarify that each TACE center must have expertise or access to subject matter experts in, at a minimum, the 12 areas of expertise identified in the third paragraph of the priority. Finally, nothing in the priority prevents a TACE center from consulting with the State VR agency to select its experts. Changes: We have revised the third paragraph of the priority to clarify that each TACE center must have expertise or access to subject-matter experts in at least the 12 areas identified. Comment: One commenter stated that the TACE centers should focus on other areas of expertise, such as negotiation skills, the psychological adjustment of individuals to acquired disabilities, leadership development, and placement training. Another commenter stated that the TACE centers should increase their knowledge of unserved and underserved populations. Discussion: The priority requires the applicant to describe how it will address the 12 specified areas of expertise. Nothing in the priority prohibits applicants from proposing to develop or provide expertise in PO 00000 Frm 00064 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 32013 additional areas, such as negotiation skills, psychological adjustment to disabilities, leadership development, placement training, and the needs of unserved or underserved populations. We agree that expertise in these and other areas may arise from the needs assessments and have revised the priority to make clear that applicants may propose to develop or provide expertise in other areas. Changes: We have revised the third paragraph of the priority to clarify that each TACE center must have expertise or access to subject-matter experts in at least the 12 areas identified. Comment: Three commenters stated that each TACE center’s annual work plan should remain flexible and responsive to individual State’s needs. Discussion: We agree that each TACE center’s annual work plan should remain flexible and responsive to individual State’s needs. We anticipate that the annual needs assessment, with input from the TACE center’s advisory committee, will ensure that each TACE center’s annual work plan will be responsive to individual State’s needs given that the annual work plan must consider the TA and CE needs identified in the annual needs assessment. Moreover, because the needs assessments are conducted and the work plans are established annually, they can easily be altered from year to year. Finally, the annual work plan can be revised in consultation with RSA if emerging needs are identified by the TACE center during that year of the project period. Changes: None. Comment: One commenter asked whether the TACE centers could coordinate multi-State teams and regional meetings as is done by the current RCEP grantees. Discussion: There is nothing in the priority that would prohibit a TACE center from coordinating multi-State teams or regional meetings, if it determines that this activity is appropriate based on the results of the TACE center’s annual needs assessment and work plan. Changes: None. Advisory Committee Members Comment: Eight commenters objected to the Department’s intent to publish a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to change the current requirement for an advisory committee to include members of minority groups. The commenters objected to the change that would require that an advisory committee include individuals who are knowledgeable about the special needs of individuals with disabilities from E:\FR\FM\05JNN1.SGM 05JNN1 yshivers on PROD1PC62 with NOTICES 32014 Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 109 / Thursday, June 5, 2008 / Notices diverse groups, including minority groups, because the new requirement would not ensure the participation of members of minority groups. One commenter suggested that members of the advisory committees include individuals with disabilities who are members of minority groups. Discussion: Members of minority groups are listed in 34 CFR 385.40 as one of the categories of mandatory participants on rehabilitation training advisory committees. As the note to paragraph (3) of the priority indicates, the Department intends to publish an 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 and 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. This proposed change is consistent with the Supreme Court ruling in Adarand Constructors, Inc. v. ˜ Pena (515 U.S. 200 (1995)) in which the Court held that all racial classifications are constitutional only if they are narrowly tailored measures that further compelling governmental interests. The proposed change is a race-neutral alternative that achieves the intent of the Department that project advisory committees include individuals who are familiar with the needs of individuals with disabilities from diverse groups, while ensuring compliance with the Supreme Court’s decision in Adarand. Changes: None. Comment: Eleven commenters requested that various entities be required members of each TACE center’s advisory committee. The entities that commenters recommended be added include: Representatives from State VR agencies (six commenters); representatives from agency partners (four commenters); and current or former recipients of VR services (one commenter). One commenter stated that State VR agency representatives should comprise 50 percent of the membership of each TACE center’s advisory committee. Another commenter stated that individuals with disabilities should comprise the majority of the members of each TACE center’s advisory committee. Discussion: The required composition of an advisory committee for projects funded under the Rehabilitation Training Program, which includes the RCEP program, is defined in 34 CFR 385.40. The priority also requires that each TACE center advisory committee include members from Independent Living Training and Technical Assistance centers. We believe that VerDate Aug<31>2005 14:51 Jun 04, 2008 Jkt 214001 adding a requirement to invite a representative from each State VR agency in a TACE center’s region would increase the opportunities for State VR agencies to express their needs and provide input into the TACE center’s annual work plans. Otherwise, we believe the composition of the advisory committee as specified in 34 CFR 385.40 and this priority is sufficiently broad to enable all appropriate constituents to be represented, including representatives from agency partners and former recipients of VR services. Nothing in the priority or applicable regulations prohibits an applicant from proposing additional members for its advisory committee. Changes: We have modified paragraph (3) of the priority to require each TACE center to invite a representative from each State VR agency in its region to participate on its advisory committee. Comment: One commenter asked if the role of the advisory committee is to provide advice to the TACE center or to set policy for the TACE center. Discussion: The priority does not specify a policy-making role for the advisory committee. It simply requires that the advisory committee be established to provide input on the TACE center’s annual needs assessment. We anticipate that the annual needs assessment will be an important source of input to each TACE center’s annual work plan. Nothing in the priority requires center policies to be determined by the advisory committee, although this function could be proposed in the application. Changes: None. Comment: One commenter stated that the TACE centers’ advisory committees, which, by definition, are regional in nature, would not take into account differences in States’ needs and recommended that the TACE centers be required to have State advisory committees. Discussion: The goal of TACE center advisory committees is to provide an opportunity for State VR agencies and agency partners to provide information about their TA and CE needs. For reasons of efficiency, the priority requires only one advisory committee for each TACE center. However, as noted elsewhere in this discussion, we have modified the priority to require each TACE center to invite a representative from each State VR agency served by the TACE center to participate on its advisory committee. We believe that this addresses the commenter’s concern by allowing regional advisory committees to be PO 00000 Frm 00065 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 informed about and take into account State differences. Changes: None. Performance Measures Comment: Four commenters stated that the goal of improving the quality and quantity of VR outcomes is not adequately defined in the priority, and one commenter stated that the TACE centers should not be expected to contribute to increasing VR outcomes. Another four commenters stated that the performance measures identified for the program in paragraph (7) of the priority should be better defined and more objective. Discussion: The goal of improving the quality and quantity of VR outcomes is an expected outcome of the provision of TA and CE to the State VR agency and agency partners. However, the Department does not intend to judge the performance of the TACE centers on the basis of changes in VR outcomes. The Department will establish an independent review panel to evaluate the performance of the TACE centers. The areas to be evaluated by the independent review panel—quality, relevance, and usefulness—are those areas typically examined by the Department in assessing the performance of TA activities supported by the Department. The Department will determine the methodology for this review, including the objective criteria to be used by the panel in rating the TA and CE services in these three areas. Changes: None. Other Comments Comment: One commenter suggested that the priority allow consortia models—that is, models in which a TACE center would be operated by two or more entities, such as the National Rehabilitation Leadership Institute. Discussion: Although the priority does not specifically address the establishment of consortia models for a TACE center, nothing in the priority would prohibit an applicant from proposing such a model. Changes: None. Comment: One commenter stated that the TACE centers should have explicit responsibility for disseminating evidence-based knowledge and best practices. Discussion: The Department agrees that it would be advantageous to have the TACE centers disseminate evidencebased knowledge, including information on best practices to the extent that it is available. We have modified paragraph (5) of the priority to reflect this change. Changes: We have modified paragraph (5) of the priority to indicate E:\FR\FM\05JNN1.SGM 05JNN1 yshivers on PROD1PC62 with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 109 / Thursday, June 5, 2008 / Notices that the TA provided by the TACE centers should be evidence-based to the extent possible. Comment: Four commenters expressed concern about the timing of this priority and the fact that the TACE centers would be replacing current RCEP grantees that have not completed their five-year funding cycle. Two commenters stated that it creates a poor precedent not to continue grants that are in the middle of a five-year funding cycle, and one commenter stated that RSA is moving forward with this change too quickly. Discussion: The Department has carefully considered the timing of this priority and believes it is the appropriate time to make this change. Seven of the current 11 RCEP centers that primarily serve State VR agencies will have completed their five-year project period, and three of the RCEP centers will have completed the fourth year of their grant prior to the establishment of the new TACE centers on October 1, 2008. In addition, the TA needs of the VR system have increased significantly, based on an assessment of the TA needs of State VR agencies and SRCs, RSA’s monitoring reviews as required by section 107 of the Act, and RSA’s review of annual State plans submitted by State VR agencies as a condition of Federal funding. The purpose of this priority is to ensure that State VR agencies and their agency partners receive the TA and CE they need to improve their performance. The Department believes that it is in the best interest of individuals with disabilities and their families that this change be made at this time. Changes: None. Comment: None. Discussion: Based on internal departmental review, we determined that it was not appropriate to include the phrase ‘‘as applicable’’ in the first sentence of paragraph (2) of the priority. We expect the annual needs assessment to identify the TA and CE needs of all State VR agencies and agency partners in the region served by the TACE center. Changes: We have deleted the phrase ‘‘as applicable’’ from the end of the first sentence in paragraph (2) of the priority. Comment: None. Discussion: Based on internal departmental review, we determined that ‘‘agency partners’’ was not adequately defined in the priority. Agency partners include all agencies with which the State VR agency cooperates in providing VR and other rehabilitation services. Change: We have added language to the first paragraph of the priority to clarify that the term ‘‘agency partners’’ VerDate Aug<31>2005 14:51 Jun 04, 2008 Jkt 214001 refers to all agencies with which the State VR agencies served by the TACE center cooperate in providing VR and other rehabilitation services. Note: This notice does not solicit applications. In any year in which we choose to use this 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: Regional Technical Assistance and Continuing Education Centers The Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services establishes a priority to create 10 regional Technical Assistance and Continuing Education (TACE) centers to provide (1) technical assistance (TA) to State vocational rehabilitation (VR) agencies and agencies with which State VR agencies cooperate in providing VR and other rehabilitation services (agency partners) to improve services required under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, and (2) continuing education (CE) to employees of State VR agencies and agency partners. For purposes of this priority, the term ‘‘agency partners’’ refers to all agencies with which the State VR agencies served by the TACE center cooperate in providing VR and other rehabilitation services. 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 TA and CE, either directly or through contract, to employees of State VR agencies and agency partners on topics that are identified jointly by the Rehabilitation Services Administration PO 00000 Frm 00066 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 32015 (RSA) and each TACE center’s advisory committee and included in the TACE center’s annual work plan. Under this priority, applicants must demonstrate their ability to respond rapidly to a broad range of TA and CE needs. Applicants must provide evidence in their applications that they have expertise, or access to subjectmatter experts with experience, in conducting TA and CE in at least the following areas: Improvement of State 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 an annual work plan, in coordination with and subject to the approval of RSA, describing activities that it 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 annual work plan must identify the nature and scope, including delivery means and methods, of the TA and CE to be provided by the TACE center and consider, but not necessarily address, the TA and CE needs of State VR agencies and agency partners identified in the TACE center’s annual needs assessment; 2. Conduct an annual needs assessment to identify the TA and CE needs of State VR agencies and agency partners in its region. Each TACE 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 TACE 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 invite representatives from each of the State VR agencies in the region served by the TACE center and from RSA’s Independent Living Training and Technical Assistance E:\FR\FM\05JNN1.SGM 05JNN1 32016 Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 109 / Thursday, June 5, 2008 / Notices grantees to serve on this committee. RSA representatives will serve as exofficio members. yshivers on PROD1PC62 with NOTICES 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 Department’s intent 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. Serve as an observer in RSA’s monitoring of State VR agencies in its region by participating, at a minimum, in each State VR agency’s monitoring exit conference in order to gain a thorough understanding of each State VR agency’s TA and CE needs; 5. Collaborate and coordinate with other TACE centers to provide TA and CE as efficiently as possible to employees of State VR agencies and agency partners that have similar needs. TA should be evidence-based, to the extent possible, and include information on best practices to the extent evidence or research is available. 6. Coordinate services with other entities that provide TA and CE to State VR agencies and agency partners, including, but not limited to, Independent Living Training and Technical Assistance grantees and Assistive Technology projects funded by RSA; and 7. Evaluate how well each TA and CE activity provided by the TACE center meets a targeted area of need (e.g., the improvement of State 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 TACE center’s annual work plan. Each TACE center must provide data on each TA and CE activity it conducts, including information on 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 TACE 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 TACE VerDate Aug<31>2005 14:51 Jun 04, 2008 Jkt 214001 centers. The independent review panel will use the following performance measures: (a) The percentage of TA and CE services provided by the TACE center that are deemed to be of high quality; (b) the percentage of TA and CE services provided by the TACE center that are deemed to be of high relevance to State VR policies or practices; and (c) the percentage of TA and CE services provided by the TACE center that are deemed to be useful in improving State VR agency policies or practices. Executive Order 12866 This notice of final priority (NFP) 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 NFP 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 NFP, we have determined that the benefits of the final 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. We summarized the costs and benefits in the NPP. 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. 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 PO 00000 Frm 00067 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 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: June 2, 2008. Tracy R. Justesen, Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services. [FR Doc. E8–12636 Filed 6–4–08; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4000–01–P DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services; Overview Information; Technical Assistance and Dissemination To Improve Services and Results for Children With Disabilities—Technical Assistance Coordination Center; Notice Inviting Applications for New Awards for Fiscal Year (FY) 2008 Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) Number: 84.326Z. DATES: Applications Available: June 5, 2008. Deadline for Transmittal of Applications: July 7, 2008. Deadline for Intergovernmental Review: September 3, 2008. Full Text of Announcement I. Funding Opportunity Description Purpose of Program: The purpose of the Technical Assistance and Dissemination to Improve Services and Results for Children With Disabilities program is to promote academic achievement and to improve results for children with disabilities by providing technical assistance (TA), supporting model demonstration projects, disseminating useful information, and implementing activities that are supported by scientifically based research. Priority: In accordance with 34 CFR 75.105(b)(2)(v), this priority is from allowable activities specified in the statute or otherwise authorized in the statute (see sections 663 and 681(d) of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. 1400 et seq.). Absolute Priority: For FY 2008, this priority is an absolute priority. Under 34 E:\FR\FM\05JNN1.SGM 05JNN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 73, Number 109 (Thursday, June 5, 2008)]
[Notices]
[Pages 32010-32016]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: E8-12636]


-----------------------------------------------------------------------

DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION


Rehabilitation Training--Rehabilitation Continuing Education 
Program

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

ACTION: Notice of final priority.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: The Assistant Secretary for Special Education and 
Rehabilitative Services announces 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 (TA) and continuing education 
(CE) 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 
(CILs), Client Assistance Programs (CAPs), and Community Rehabilitation 
Programs (CRPs)).

DATES: Effective Date: This priority is effective July 7, 2008.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Christine Marschall, U.S. Department 
of Education, 400 Maryland Ave., SW., Room 5053, Potomac Center Plaza, 
Washington, DC 20202-2800. Telephone: (202) 245-7429 or via Internet: 
Christine.Marschall@ed.gov.
    If you use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), call the 
Federal Relay Service (FRS) at 1-800-877-8339.
    Individuals with disabilities can 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: Through this priority, the Department 
revises the current structure of the RCEP, which includes 21 regional 
RCEP centers--11 centers that serve primarily State VR agencies and 10 
centers that serve primarily CRPs. Instead of funding these two 
separate sets of centers, this priority supports 10 regional Technical 
Assistance and Continuing Education (TACE) centers to serve State VR 
agencies and agency partners that cooperate with State VR agencies in 
providing VR and other rehabilitation services. CRPs are among the 
agency partners that the TACE centers are expected to serve. While the 
current RCEP centers provide CE and limited TA to entities, TACE 
centers will provide both TA and CE as necessary to respond to the 
needs of the State VR agencies and agency partners served by the TACE 
centers.
    We published a notice of proposed priority (NPP) for this program 
in the Federal Register on January 29, 2008 (73 FR 5179). The NPP 
included a discussion of the issues associated with modifying the RCEP 
structure. The background section of the NPP explained that the results 
of the Department's Rehabilitation Services Administration's (RSA) 
program monitoring required by section 107 of the Rehabilitation Act of 
1973, as amended, and the needs assessments conducted by current RCEP 
grantees indicated the need to integrate and coordinate services 
provided to State VR agencies and agency partners that cooperate with 
State VR agencies in providing VR and other rehabilitation services, 
including CRPs. The NPP also explained that the modified RCEP structure 
would reduce administrative costs by combining the functions of the two 
sets of centers and that public comments on the Rehabilitation Training 
Program, solicited through a notice in the Federal Register (72 FR 
9942), generally supported the role of the RCEP in providing TA and CE 
and the provision of these services through a regional model. The final 
priority announced in this notice contains differences from the 
priority proposed in the NPP.

Analysis of Comments and Changes

    In response to our invitation in the NPP, 79 parties submitted 
comments on the proposed priority. An analysis of the comments and of 
any changes in the priority since publication of the NPP follows.
    Multiple commenters raised a number of similar issues; therefore, 
we group major issues by subject area. Generally, we do not address 
technical and other minor changes and suggested changes the law does 
not authorize us to make under the applicable statutory authority.

Agency Partners

    Comment: Fifty-four commenters requested that specific entities be 
added to the list of agency partners with whom State VR agencies 
cooperate to provide VR and other rehabilitative services. Various 
commenters recommended that the following entities be added: American 
Indian Vocational Rehabilitation Service programs (30 commenters); 
State Rehabilitation Councils (SRCs) (nine commenters); Migrant and 
Seasonal Farmworker programs (seven commenters); CILs (six commenters); 
Statewide Independent Living Councils (one commenter); and State 
agencies such as developmental disability, mental illness, and 
substance abuse agencies (one commenter).
    Discussion: The agency partners included in the priority are 
examples of agencies with which State VR agencies cooperate to provide 
VR and other rehabilitative services; the list of agencies provided is 
not intended to be exhaustive. The entities suggested by the commenters 
could be agency partners--that is, if a State VR agency cooperates with 
any one of these entities to provide VR and other rehabilitative 
services, that entity would be considered an agency partner for 
purposes of this priority.
    Changes: None.

Consolidation of the Regional Centers

    Comment: Twenty-three commenters stated that CRPs will not be 
served adequately under the modified RCEP structure, and six commenters 
stated that the TA and CE needs of CRPs are significantly different 
from the needs of State VR agencies.
    Discussion: This priority focuses on the needs of State VR agencies 
and their agency partners. RSA values the contribution of the CRPs in 
the VR service system and recognizes that CRPs may have TA and CE needs 
that are different from those of the State VR agency and its other 
agency partners. RSA expects that the needs of CRPs, along with the 
needs of other agency

[[Page 32011]]

partners, will be reflected in the annual needs assessment that will 
serve as the foundation for each TACE center's work plan.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: Two commenters asked whether the 10 TACE centers will 
provide the employment certificate series training that the RCEP 
centers serving CRPs currently provide.
    Discussion: The TA and CE provided by each TACE center will be 
determined by each TACE center with input from RSA after the TACE 
center conducts an annual needs assessment of the State VR agency and 
agency partners in the TACE center's region. While the TACE centers are 
not required to provide the employment certificate series training 
referred to by the commenter, nothing in the priority prohibits a TACE 
center from doing so if it meets a need identified by the State VR 
agency or its agency partners.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: Twenty-three commenters stated that the TACE centers 
should balance the time and resources devoted to address TA needs, on 
the one hand, and CE needs, on the other. Twelve commenters stated that 
the proposed priority appears to emphasize TA more than CE.
    Discussion: We do not agree that the priority places a greater 
emphasis on TA than CE. The priority clearly states that each TACE 
center must conduct an annual needs assessment to identify the TA and 
CE needs of State VR agencies and agency partners. Based on the annual 
needs assessment, each TACE center will determine and describe in its 
work plan the distribution of resources that will be devoted to TA and 
CE activities.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter expressed concern that the 10 TACE centers 
will not be able to handle the high volume of TA and CE requests as 
well as the 21 currently funded RCEP centers.
    Discussion: We expect the 10 TACE centers to be able to handle the 
high volume of TA and CE requests as well as the 21 currently funded 
RCEP centers because we believe that these 10 centers will provide TA 
and CE more effectively and efficiently than the current 21 RCEP 
centers. Because each region will have one TACE center to serve all 
State VR agencies and agency partners in that region and because RSA 
will coordinate across the TACE centers on a national level, the 
modified structure will facilitate sharing materials and information, 
and coordinating TA and CE activities, as appropriate, within and 
across regions. The annual needs assessment and work plan requirements 
in the priority will also help focus resources more effectively. We 
believe that the modified structure of the program will decrease 
duplication of effort and enhance coordination between State VR 
agencies and their agency partners. In addition, fewer resources will 
be expended on administrative costs because there will be one center in 
each region rather than two.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: Six commenters expressed concern that the relationships 
that have been developed over time among the current RCEP centers, 
State VR agencies, and agency partners will be lost in the modified 
RCEP structure supported by the TACE center priority.
    Discussion: The modified structure of the RCEP program is designed 
to ensure collaboration between the TACE center, the State VR agency 
and agency partners served, and RSA. We believe that this collaboration 
will result in increased coordination of TA and CE provided to State VR 
agencies and agency partners and enhance relationships among the TACE 
centers, State VR agencies, and agency partners. Further, we believe 
that each TACE center's advisory committee will provide an opportunity 
for the advisory committee members who represent State VR agencies, 
among others, to develop and sustain relationships.
    Changes: None.

Funding

    Comment: Eighteen commenters stated that requiring the TACE centers 
to take on more TA responsibilities than the current RCEP centers will 
require more funds than those allocated to the current RCEP centers. 
Fourteen commenters stated that the same amount of funds currently 
provided to the 21 RCEP grantees should be provided to the 10 TACE 
centers in order for the new RCEP structure to be effective.
    Discussion: The estimated level of funding for the TACE centers 
will be included in the notice inviting applications for new awards. We 
do not anticipate maintaining the same level of funds for the TACE 
centers that has been available under the current structure of the RCEP 
program. One of the major reasons for the changes in the RCEP program 
is to facilitate close coordination within each TACE center and among 
the TACE centers in order to maximize the effective use of funds to 
meet the TA and CE needs of the State VR agencies and their agency 
partners. To help ensure collaboration among TACE centers, RSA will 
coordinate activities of the TACE centers at the national level. We 
believe that the increased coordination within each TACE center and 
across centers will result in significant administrative efficiencies 
that will offset some of the expected funding differential.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: Three commenters asked how available funds for the RCEP 
program will be allocated and whether the geographic size of regions 
will be considered when funds are allocated to the TACE centers.
    Discussion: All TACE centers will receive the same base funding 
amount. Additional funding will be provided to individual TACE centers 
based on the number of State VR agency staff in the region each TACE 
center serves, as identified in the most recently published data from 
the RSA-2, the Annual VR Program/Cost Report. We will not base our 
funding allocations on the geographic size of regions because we do not 
believe that the size of a region alone should affect the level of 
services provided--since there are multiple ways to conduct TA and 
provide CE in addition to face-to-face meetings, such as video 
conferencing and Webcasts.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter stated that the majority of funds provided 
to the TACE centers should be used to address TA and CE needs of State 
VR agencies. Another commenter asked whether the TACE centers would 
share staff training costs with the State VR agencies they serve as 
they do under the current RCEP structure.
    Discussion: The use of funds for TA and CE will be determined by 
each TACE center based on the TACE center's annual needs assessment 
(developed with input from its advisory committee) and the TACE 
center's annual work plan (developed with input from RSA). Nothing in 
the priority prohibits the majority of funds provided to the TACE 
centers from being used to address TA and CE needs of State VR 
agencies. However, we do not believe that it is appropriate to require 
all TACE centers to use the majority of their funding under this 
program to address these needs. With regard to sharing training costs, 
while nothing in this priority requires a TACE center to share staff 
training costs with the State VR agencies it serves, nothing in the 
priority prohibits the TACE center from doing so.
    Changes: None.

RSA Involvement With the TACE Centers

    Comment: Twenty-eight commenters expressed concern that the 
priority gives

[[Page 32012]]

RSA too much control over the decision-making of the TACE centers and 
that, as a result, each TACE center's needs assessment and annual work 
plan will be dictated by RSA and not adequately consider the needs of 
the State VR agency and its agency partners.
    Discussion: Under the priority, the TACE centers must work in 
consultation with RSA to establish their annual work plans, which 
describe the activities the TACE centers will carry out during each 
year of their project. We believe that this level of RSA involvement in 
and approval of the work plan is critical to ensure that the TACE 
centers are familiar with relevant information from RSA's State 
monitoring activities and to facilitate alignment of the TA and CE 
provided by the TACE centers with the VR service system in each State 
and across States. Given the need to ensure coordination of the work of 
the TACE centers at the national level, we believe it is important for 
RSA to approve all TACE center annual work plans. While the TACE model 
provides RSA with the authority to approve each center's work plan, RSA 
recognizes that, in order for the TACE centers to be effective, the 
TACE centers must work with the State VR agencies and agency partners 
to ensure more integrated decision-making with regard to the needs of 
State VR agencies and agency partners within and across the regions.
    Changes: Priority paragraph (1) has been amended to clarify that 
each TACE center must establish an annual work plan, in coordination 
with and subject to the approval of RSA.
    Comment: Nine commenters stated that TA should be RSA's 
responsibility, not the TACE centers' responsibility. One commenter 
stated that there is a need to explain the difference between the TA 
provided by the TACE centers and that provided by RSA.
    Discussion: RSA will utilize the TACE centers to supplement the TA 
it provides. In light of RSA's program monitoring and the needs 
assessments conducted by current RCEP grantees that indicate a 
significant need for TA, we believe that supplementing RSA's provision 
of TA is beneficial to State VR agencies and agency partners, and 
ultimately individuals with disabilities receiving services from State 
VR agencies and agency partners. RSA--not the TACE centers--will 
provide TA on the interpretation of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as 
amended, and its regulations. TACE centers will provide TA to State VR 
agencies and agency partners to assist them in improving their 
performance in areas such as program management and delivery of VR 
services to increase and improve employment outcomes for individuals 
with disabilities.
    Changes: None.

Needs Assessment and Work Plan

    Comment: The comments of 26 individuals indicated that there was 
confusion about the relationship between the annual needs assessment 
and the annual work plan, as well as the role of a TACE center's 
advisory committee.
    Discussion: The proposed priority specified that each TACE center 
would conduct an annual needs assessment, with input from its advisory 
committee, and develop an annual work plan, with input from RSA. 
However, we agree that the proposed priority was not clear about how 
the results of the needs assessment would be used to develop the annual 
work plan. We intend that the annual work plan, developed in 
cooperation with RSA and approved by RSA, will take into consideration 
the TA and CE needs of State VR agencies and agency partners that are 
identified in the TACE center's annual needs assessment. We do not 
expect each annual work plan to address all of the needs identified in 
the needs assessment. We understand that, due to limited resources, 
each TACE center will prioritize needs to be addressed in the annual 
work plan.
    Changes: We have modified paragraph (1) of the priority to make 
clear that annual work plans must consider, but not necessarily 
address, the TA and CE needs of State VR agencies and agency partners 
identified in the TACE center's annual needs assessment.
    Comment: Four commenters stated that the needs assessment should 
consider what the State VR agencies and agency partners say they need 
and not be based solely on RSA-generated data. Eighteen commenters 
stated that the State VR agencies in a TACE center's region should be 
consulted in the development of the TACE center's needs assessment and 
that a representative from State VR agencies in the region should be a 
member of a center's advisory committee. Discussion: As specified in 
paragraph (2) of the priority, each TACE center's annual needs 
assessment must be based on the needs of State VR agencies and agency 
partners in its region. The priority lists several sources of 
information that will be important for each TACE center to consider in 
its annual needs assessment, including information from VR State plans, 
on-site monitoring reports, and annual review reports issued by RSA. A 
TACE center's needs assessment, therefore, could not be based solely on 
RSA-generated data. In addition, paragraph (3) of the priority requires 
each TACE center to solicit input from its advisory committee members 
in developing the needs assessment and to use this information in 
developing its annual work plan.
    Members of the advisory committee include, at a minimum, the 
entities listed in 34 CFR 385.40 as well as those additional entities 
listed in paragraph (3) of the priority. We believe that adding a 
representative from each State VR agency in a TACE center's region will 
increase opportunities for State VR agencies to inform the TACE center 
about their needs and to provide input into a TACE center's annual work 
plan. For this reason, we are modifying the priority to require each 
TACE center to invite a representative from the State VR agencies in 
the TACE center's region to participate on its advisory committee.
    Changes: Paragraph (3) of the priority has been modified to require 
a TACE center to invite a representative from each State VR agency in 
its region to participate on its advisory committee.
    Comment: Fifteen commenters stated that basing the needs assessment 
on VR State plans will result in a reactive and deficiency-based needs 
assessment (i.e., one that intends only to remediate skills identified 
as ineffective through RSA monitoring), rather than a proactive needs 
assessment (i.e., one that considers the development of new 
professional skills of staff as a valuable activity). One commenter 
stated that TA should be focused on VR State plans.
    Discussion: VR State plans document the agency's goals and 
priorities for the upcoming fiscal year, including the strategies that 
the agency will undertake to achieve them. Using the VR State plans as 
one source of information in the needs assessment process enhances the 
needs assessments' relevance to State VR agencies' goals and 
priorities.
    It was not the intent of the priority that the needs assessment be 
based solely on VR State plans. These plans are listed as one of the 
data sources to be reviewed when conducting the needs assessment. 
Paragraph (2) of the priority lists several other sources of data that 
must be considered in the annual needs assessment, including on-site 
monitoring reports and annual review reports issued by RSA, other 
performance and compliance information from RSA and State VR agencies, 
and other data, as appropriate.
    We also do not intend for the needs assessment in this priority to 
be a deficiency-based model. Instead, we expect that the needs 
assessment process will be guided by each TACE center's advisory 
committee to ensure

[[Page 32013]]

that TA and CE are provided both to remediate deficits and to support 
new professional development. Each TACE center will make collaborative 
decisions with RSA about the TA and CE to be provided through the 
annual work plan based on the needs identified using these multiple 
data sources.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: Eleven commenters disagreed with the requirement that TACE 
center representatives attend State VR agency monitoring exit 
conferences conducted by RSA. The commenters stated that the presence 
of TACE center staff would give the impression that the TACE centers 
have monitoring responsibilities. Three commenters stated that the exit 
conference is the wrong time to have the TACE centers involved in the 
monitoring process because the process is incomplete at that time; 
instead, the commenters recommended that the TACE centers be involved 
after the issuance of a State's final monitoring report.
    Discussion: The priority does not assign monitoring 
responsibilities to the TACE centers. Rather, the priority requires 
that the TACE centers serve as observers in RSA's monitoring of State 
VR agencies in their region by participating, at a minimum, in each 
State VR agency's monitoring exit conference in order to gain a 
thorough understanding of each State VR agency's TA and CE needs. It is 
important to retain the requirement that TACE center representatives 
participate in State VR agency monitoring exit conferences because 
these exit conferences provide significant information about the TA and 
CE needs of the State VR agency and agency partners. Requiring that 
TACE center staff participate in the exit conferences is worthwhile 
because of the early, additional insight the TACE centers will gain. 
Once the final report is issued, the TACE centers will consider the 
report's recommendations in their needs assessment and in the 
development of their work plan.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: Five commenters stated that, given limited funding, a 
single center couldn't be expected to have expertise in the 12 areas 
identified in the third paragraph of the priority. Two commenters 
stated that the 12 areas in which a TACE center must demonstrate 
expertise focus on the needs of the State VR agency and do not include 
areas that apply to agency partners. One commenter stated that the 
State VR agency should have input on the subject matter experts 
selected by its regional TACE center to provide TA and CE.
    Discussion: One of the purposes of the TACE centers is to ensure 
that State VR agencies and agency partners receive the TA and CE they 
need to improve program performance. The expertise areas identified are 
included to address the needs of agency partners in the activities the 
agency partners undertake in cooperation with the State VR agency in 
the provision of VR and other rehabilitation services authorized under 
the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended (Act). The 12 expertise 
areas included in the third paragraph of the priority were identified 
based on the following: An assessment of the TA needs of State VR 
agencies and SRCs; RSA's monitoring reviews required by section 107 of 
the Act; and RSA's review of annual VR State plans. Based on this 
information, we have determined that it is important to require 
applicants to demonstrate that they have expertise or access to 
subject-matter experts in at least these areas in order to provide 
effective TA and CE under this priority. The priority requires an 
applicant to describe how it will access expertise in at least these 12 
areas, but it does not require the applicant to have experts on staff 
in all 12 areas. Thus, we disagree that this requirement will be too 
costly for TACE center grantees.
    We recognize that other areas of need may arise through the needs 
assessment and do not wish to limit the areas of expertise to those 
identified in the priority. Therefore, we have changed the priority to 
clarify that each TACE center must have expertise or access to subject 
matter experts in, at a minimum, the 12 areas of expertise identified 
in the third paragraph of the priority.
    Finally, nothing in the priority prevents a TACE center from 
consulting with the State VR agency to select its experts.
    Changes: We have revised the third paragraph of the priority to 
clarify that each TACE center must have expertise or access to subject-
matter experts in at least the 12 areas identified.
    Comment: One commenter stated that the TACE centers should focus on 
other areas of expertise, such as negotiation skills, the psychological 
adjustment of individuals to acquired disabilities, leadership 
development, and placement training. Another commenter stated that the 
TACE centers should increase their knowledge of unserved and 
underserved populations.
    Discussion: The priority requires the applicant to describe how it 
will address the 12 specified areas of expertise. Nothing in the 
priority prohibits applicants from proposing to develop or provide 
expertise in additional areas, such as negotiation skills, 
psychological adjustment to disabilities, leadership development, 
placement training, and the needs of unserved or underserved 
populations. We agree that expertise in these and other areas may arise 
from the needs assessments and have revised the priority to make clear 
that applicants may propose to develop or provide expertise in other 
areas.
    Changes: We have revised the third paragraph of the priority to 
clarify that each TACE center must have expertise or access to subject-
matter experts in at least the 12 areas identified.
    Comment: Three commenters stated that each TACE center's annual 
work plan should remain flexible and responsive to individual State's 
needs.
    Discussion: We agree that each TACE center's annual work plan 
should remain flexible and responsive to individual State's needs. We 
anticipate that the annual needs assessment, with input from the TACE 
center's advisory committee, will ensure that each TACE center's annual 
work plan will be responsive to individual State's needs given that the 
annual work plan must consider the TA and CE needs identified in the 
annual needs assessment. Moreover, because the needs assessments are 
conducted and the work plans are established annually, they can easily 
be altered from year to year. Finally, the annual work plan can be 
revised in consultation with RSA if emerging needs are identified by 
the TACE center during that year of the project period.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter asked whether the TACE centers could 
coordinate multi-State teams and regional meetings as is done by the 
current RCEP grantees.
    Discussion: There is nothing in the priority that would prohibit a 
TACE center from coordinating multi-State teams or regional meetings, 
if it determines that this activity is appropriate based on the results 
of the TACE center's annual needs assessment and work plan.
    Changes: None.

Advisory Committee Members

    Comment: Eight commenters objected to the Department's intent to 
publish a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to change the current 
requirement for an advisory committee to include members of minority 
groups. The commenters objected to the change that would require that 
an advisory committee include individuals who are knowledgeable about 
the special needs of individuals with disabilities from

[[Page 32014]]

diverse groups, including minority groups, because the new requirement 
would not ensure the participation of members of minority groups. One 
commenter suggested that members of the advisory committees include 
individuals with disabilities who are members of minority groups.
    Discussion: Members of minority groups are listed in 34 CFR 385.40 
as one of the categories of mandatory participants on rehabilitation 
training advisory committees. As the note to paragraph (3) of the 
priority indicates, the Department intends to publish an 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 
and 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. This proposed change is 
consistent with the Supreme Court ruling in Adarand Constructors, Inc. 
v. Pena (515 U.S. 200 (1995)) in which the Court held that all racial 
classifications are constitutional only if they are narrowly tailored 
measures that further compelling governmental interests. The proposed 
change is a race-neutral alternative that achieves the intent of the 
Department that project advisory committees include individuals who are 
familiar with the needs of individuals with disabilities from diverse 
groups, while ensuring compliance with the Supreme Court's decision in 
Adarand.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: Eleven commenters requested that various entities be 
required members of each TACE center's advisory committee. The entities 
that commenters recommended be added include: Representatives from 
State VR agencies (six commenters); representatives from agency 
partners (four commenters); and current or former recipients of VR 
services (one commenter). One commenter stated that State VR agency 
representatives should comprise 50 percent of the membership of each 
TACE center's advisory committee. Another commenter stated that 
individuals with disabilities should comprise the majority of the 
members of each TACE center's advisory committee.
    Discussion: The required composition of an advisory committee for 
projects funded under the Rehabilitation Training Program, which 
includes the RCEP program, is defined in 34 CFR 385.40. The priority 
also requires that each TACE center advisory committee include members 
from Independent Living Training and Technical Assistance centers. We 
believe that adding a requirement to invite a representative from each 
State VR agency in a TACE center's region would increase the 
opportunities for State VR agencies to express their needs and provide 
input into the TACE center's annual work plans. Otherwise, we believe 
the composition of the advisory committee as specified in 34 CFR 385.40 
and this priority is sufficiently broad to enable all appropriate 
constituents to be represented, including representatives from agency 
partners and former recipients of VR services. Nothing in the priority 
or applicable regulations prohibits an applicant from proposing 
additional members for its advisory committee.
    Changes: We have modified paragraph (3) of the priority to require 
each TACE center to invite a representative from each State VR agency 
in its region to participate on its advisory committee.
    Comment: One commenter asked if the role of the advisory committee 
is to provide advice to the TACE center or to set policy for the TACE 
center.
    Discussion: The priority does not specify a policy-making role for 
the advisory committee. It simply requires that the advisory committee 
be established to provide input on the TACE center's annual needs 
assessment. We anticipate that the annual needs assessment will be an 
important source of input to each TACE center's annual work plan. 
Nothing in the priority requires center policies to be determined by 
the advisory committee, although this function could be proposed in the 
application.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter stated that the TACE centers' advisory 
committees, which, by definition, are regional in nature, would not 
take into account differences in States' needs and recommended that the 
TACE centers be required to have State advisory committees.
    Discussion: The goal of TACE center advisory committees is to 
provide an opportunity for State VR agencies and agency partners to 
provide information about their TA and CE needs. For reasons of 
efficiency, the priority requires only one advisory committee for each 
TACE center. However, as noted elsewhere in this discussion, we have 
modified the priority to require each TACE center to invite a 
representative from each State VR agency served by the TACE center to 
participate on its advisory committee. We believe that this addresses 
the commenter's concern by allowing regional advisory committees to be 
informed about and take into account State differences.
    Changes: None.

Performance Measures

    Comment: Four commenters stated that the goal of improving the 
quality and quantity of VR outcomes is not adequately defined in the 
priority, and one commenter stated that the TACE centers should not be 
expected to contribute to increasing VR outcomes. Another four 
commenters stated that the performance measures identified for the 
program in paragraph (7) of the priority should be better defined and 
more objective.
    Discussion: The goal of improving the quality and quantity of VR 
outcomes is an expected outcome of the provision of TA and CE to the 
State VR agency and agency partners. However, the Department does not 
intend to judge the performance of the TACE centers on the basis of 
changes in VR outcomes. The Department will establish an independent 
review panel to evaluate the performance of the TACE centers. The areas 
to be evaluated by the independent review panel--quality, relevance, 
and usefulness--are those areas typically examined by the Department in 
assessing the performance of TA activities supported by the Department. 
The Department will determine the methodology for this review, 
including the objective criteria to be used by the panel in rating the 
TA and CE services in these three areas.
    Changes: None.

Other Comments

    Comment: One commenter suggested that the priority allow consortia 
models--that is, models in which a TACE center would be operated by two 
or more entities, such as the National Rehabilitation Leadership 
Institute.
    Discussion: Although the priority does not specifically address the 
establishment of consortia models for a TACE center, nothing in the 
priority would prohibit an applicant from proposing such a model.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter stated that the TACE centers should have 
explicit responsibility for disseminating evidence-based knowledge and 
best practices.
    Discussion: The Department agrees that it would be advantageous to 
have the TACE centers disseminate evidence-based knowledge, including 
information on best practices to the extent that it is available. We 
have modified paragraph (5) of the priority to reflect this change.
    Changes: We have modified paragraph (5) of the priority to indicate

[[Page 32015]]

that the TA provided by the TACE centers should be evidence-based to 
the extent possible.
    Comment: Four commenters expressed concern about the timing of this 
priority and the fact that the TACE centers would be replacing current 
RCEP grantees that have not completed their five-year funding cycle. 
Two commenters stated that it creates a poor precedent not to continue 
grants that are in the middle of a five-year funding cycle, and one 
commenter stated that RSA is moving forward with this change too 
quickly.
    Discussion: The Department has carefully considered the timing of 
this priority and believes it is the appropriate time to make this 
change. Seven of the current 11 RCEP centers that primarily serve State 
VR agencies will have completed their five-year project period, and 
three of the RCEP centers will have completed the fourth year of their 
grant prior to the establishment of the new TACE centers on October 1, 
2008. In addition, the TA needs of the VR system have increased 
significantly, based on an assessment of the TA needs of State VR 
agencies and SRCs, RSA's monitoring reviews as required by section 107 
of the Act, and RSA's review of annual State plans submitted by State 
VR agencies as a condition of Federal funding. The purpose of this 
priority is to ensure that State VR agencies and their agency partners 
receive the TA and CE they need to improve their performance. The 
Department believes that it is in the best interest of individuals with 
disabilities and their families that this change be made at this time.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: None.
    Discussion: Based on internal departmental review, we determined 
that it was not appropriate to include the phrase ``as applicable'' in 
the first sentence of paragraph (2) of the priority. We expect the 
annual needs assessment to identify the TA and CE needs of all State VR 
agencies and agency partners in the region served by the TACE center.
    Changes: We have deleted the phrase ``as applicable'' from the end 
of the first sentence in paragraph (2) of the priority.
    Comment: None.
    Discussion: Based on internal departmental review, we determined 
that ``agency partners'' was not adequately defined in the priority. 
Agency partners include all agencies with which the State VR agency 
cooperates in providing VR and other rehabilitation services.
    Change: We have added language to the first paragraph of the 
priority to clarify that the term ``agency partners'' refers to all 
agencies with which the State VR agencies served by the TACE center 
cooperate in providing VR and other rehabilitation services.

    Note: This notice does not solicit applications. In any year in 
which we choose to use this 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:
    Regional Technical Assistance and Continuing Education Centers
    The Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative 
Services establishes a priority to create 10 regional Technical 
Assistance and Continuing Education (TACE) centers to provide (1) 
technical assistance (TA) to State vocational rehabilitation (VR) 
agencies and agencies with which State VR agencies cooperate in 
providing VR and other rehabilitation services (agency partners) to 
improve services required under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as 
amended, and (2) continuing education (CE) to employees of State VR 
agencies and agency partners. For purposes of this priority, the term 
``agency partners'' refers to all agencies with which the State VR 
agencies served by the TACE center cooperate in providing VR and other 
rehabilitation services.
    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 TA and CE, either directly or through 
contract, to employees of State VR agencies and agency partners on 
topics that are identified jointly by the Rehabilitation Services 
Administration (RSA) and each TACE center's advisory committee and 
included in the TACE center's annual work plan.
    Under this priority, applicants must demonstrate their ability to 
respond rapidly to a broad range of TA and CE needs. Applicants must 
provide evidence in their applications that they have expertise, or 
access to subject-matter experts with experience, in conducting TA and 
CE in at least the following areas: Improvement of State 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 an annual work plan, in coordination with and subject 
to the approval of RSA, describing activities that it 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 annual work plan must 
identify the nature and scope, including delivery means and methods, of 
the TA and CE to be provided by the TACE center and consider, but not 
necessarily address, the TA and CE needs of State VR agencies and 
agency partners identified in the TACE center's annual needs 
assessment;
    2. Conduct an annual needs assessment to identify the TA and CE 
needs of State VR agencies and agency partners in its region. Each TACE 
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 TACE 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 invite representatives from each of the State VR 
agencies in the region served by the TACE center and from RSA's 
Independent Living Training and Technical Assistance

[[Page 32016]]

grantees to serve on this committee. RSA representatives will serve 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 
Department's intent 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. Serve as an observer in RSA's monitoring of State VR agencies in 
its region by participating, at a minimum, in each State VR agency's 
monitoring exit conference in order to gain a thorough understanding of 
each State VR agency's TA and CE needs;
    5. Collaborate and coordinate with other TACE centers to provide TA 
and CE as efficiently as possible to employees of State VR agencies and 
agency partners that have similar needs. TA should be evidence-based, 
to the extent possible, and include information on best practices to 
the extent evidence or research is available.
    6. Coordinate services with other entities that provide TA and CE 
to State VR agencies and agency partners, including, but not limited 
to, Independent Living Training and Technical Assistance grantees and 
Assistive Technology projects funded by RSA; and
    7. Evaluate how well each TA and CE activity provided by the TACE 
center meets a targeted area of need (e.g., the improvement of State 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 TACE center's annual 
work plan. Each TACE center must provide data on each TA and CE 
activity it conducts, including information on 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 TACE 
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 TACE centers. The independent review panel 
will use the following performance measures: (a) The percentage of TA 
and CE services provided by the TACE center that are deemed to be of 
high quality; (b) the percentage of TA and CE services provided by the 
TACE center that are deemed to be of high relevance to State VR 
policies or practices; and (c) the percentage of TA and CE services 
provided by the TACE center that are deemed to be useful in improving 
State VR agency policies or practices.

Executive Order 12866

    This notice of final priority (NFP) 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 NFP 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 NFP, we have determined that the benefits of 
the final 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.
    We summarized the costs and benefits in the NPP.

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.
    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: June 2, 2008.
Tracy R. Justesen,
Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services.
[FR Doc. E8-12636 Filed 6-4-08; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4000-01-P