Thursday, April 28, 2011

Special Education Funding

Before 1950 the federal government was not involved in the education of children with disabilities. Discretion of how special education students were to be educated in public schools was left to states and local school districts. This changed in 1975 with the passage of The Education of All Handicapped Children Act later renamed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act in 1990. IDEA ensures all students with disabilities receive the service they need to achieve their educational goals. Through the IDEA the federal government has authorization to fund up to 40% of the average cost of special education.

For Minnesota, the federal funding received through IDEA has been well below the 40% of excess cost. Specifically for 2009, it was only 15.8%. Leaving the rest of the funding needed to the state and local districts.

Funding varies widely between states and districts within states. For Minnesota the state uses the percentage of expenditure formula to calculate special education aid for districts based on their actual special education costs submitted to the Minnesota Department of Education. The total amount is capped. If the total initial aid amount is more than the cap, which is currently the case, districts receive a deflationary decrease.

The cost of special education has grown at double the rate of regular school budgets in many states. Special education takes up about 20% of overall education budgets statewide. In Minnesota schools will set aside an estimated $632 million for the 2012 fiscal year to cover special education costs for approximately 126,108 special education students receiving services. As the figure below shows, total spending per special education pupil has increased dramatically over the years.

Some say this increase in cost is due to a higher identification of special education students. Many claim just for an increase in funding. In order to receive services students must be identified as having special education needs by the state. Like funding this is a process that is not clear cut. Go here to learn the basic steps in identifying a child with special needs. Do you think schools, parents and teachers would go to this length just for more funding if they didn't believe the student really needed it?

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