Ample Funding of Local Special Education Programs

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When Congress passed the Individual with  Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 1975, it promised to fund, with  federal dollars, 40% of the special education costs expended by states  and local boards of education. Except as part of the 2009 economic  stimulus package, Congress has failed to meet this commitment,  appropriating only about half of the promised amount. 


Connecticut funds  local special education in two principal ways. First, Connecticut  provides Education Cost Sharing Grants to towns, based on a variety of  factors that result in relatively large grants per student in poor  towns and smaller or no grants to higher-income towns. Somewhere over $2  billion is provided to districts in this way. Although no money is  specifically earmarked for special education through ECS grants, the  grants help fund special education programs, particularly in poorer  communities and cities. Second, Connecticut provided excess cost  reimbursement on a student-by-student basis for special education  programs that cost more that 4.5 times the average per pupil cost in a  district. The legislature has appropriated slightly less than $140  million for this, meaning that the reimbursement rate is at about 70% of  the excess cost amount. Looked at from another angle, the appropriation  for excess cost reimbursement works out to $2,000 per special education  student.


While these two funding streams may not  be the most rational ones to fund special education, SEEK-CT’s greater  concern is that local school boards are provided with the resources they  need to meet the needs of students with disabilities.