SPED funding now a little less special

money money money photo

A dollar for you, one hundred for me
(Photo by Stephen Depelo)

NCLB waivers, meet your new federal pal, easement of special education “maintenance of
effort” requirements. Traditionally, IDEA has been interpreted to
require school districts to maintain (or increase) their spending on special
education from year to year or else face stiff penalties. Districts could apply
for one-year waivers for particular reasons—for example, the graduation of an
extremely expensive student, which might send costs lower. But they were
expected to resume their higher spending the next year. A June letter from ED
to the National Association of State Directors of Special Education trumpets a
different tune. Now, the Department says districts may lower their special-education
and then keep the same level in subsequent years as well. This small but
significant change signals a willingness to rethink special-education
spending’s status as untouchable—which is critical in this time of fiscal
austerity. As Sasha Pudelski, a staffer for the American Association
of School Administrators, told Education
, “Fairness dictates that all programs and populations share in the
burden of cuts, rather than holding a single program exempt.” Precisely.

Loosen Rules on Cutting Special Ed. Funding
,” by Nirvi Shah, Education Week, August 31, 2011.