AEFP 42nd Annual Conference Program
Chair:, University of Georgia
Chair:, University of Virginia
Chair:, Public Policy Institute of California
Students with disabilities are supported by special education programs at school districts across the country. The programs are paid for by a mix of federal, state, and local funding. Federal funding was intended to cover 40 percent of spending for students with special needs when the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, was signed into law in 1974, though it has never come close to doing so. Since students with special needs are entitled to a free and appropriate public education under the law, state and local spending is essential to providing special education services. Special education programs are also intended to serve students in the least restrictive environment, allowing students to receive as much instruction as possible in a general education classroom setting. This panel will discuss the variation in the way states and localities pay for special education and discusses potential consequence these approaches.
The federal formula distributes dollars to states based on numbers of total enrolled students (and a 15% weight for students in poverty) rather than based on the number of special education students. This census-based funding formula is intended to avoid creating fiscal incentives to identify students as having special needs.
Many state funding formulas operate differently, and with potentially different fiscal incentives for identification and service. Some states fund districts based on numbers of enrolled students (similar to the federal formula). Others fund districts based on numbers of students with special needs. Some states add weights to their formulas, either for risk factors (for census based) or for types of disability (for special education student counts). Special education student counts can have a cap, a floor, or neither, depending on the state. Some state formulas reimburse school districts for costs of providing services to students with special needs (either partially or in full). And finally some states do something entirely different, such as providing vouchers for individual students with special education needs. In addition, states vary in whether funding for special education is treated as categorical or is integrated with general education funding.
The four panelist each have in-depth knowledge of four unique funding options, represented by California, Georgia, Tennessee, and New Orleans and can discuss ways in which the funding formulas present challenges and opportunities for efficiently serving students with special needs in the most integrated way possible.