Thursday, September 12, 2013

Pew Center Report: Sequester Hits Special Education Like a "Ton of Bricks"

Graphic: New America Foundation
The Pew Center reported this week on the effects of sequestration on funding of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Under the sequester, federal funds for disability services was cut five percent, or about $579 million for IDEA Part B, which supports students age 3-21 who need special education services. The cuts will affect services for 6.5 million disabled children who receive services funded by the IDEA. Any cuts in IDEA federal funding is significant for states because federal IDEA funding has never reached Congress' goal of covering 40 percent of the excess cost of educating disabled children. In 2012, federal IDEA funding covered 16 percent of the estimated excess cost of educating children with disabilities. IDEA Part B "full funding" for 2012 would have have been about $17 billion more than was actually appropriated. The shortfall in IDEA funding has been assumed by the states and local school districts. Excerpted from the Pew Center's report:


Across the country, advocates for children with disabilities are grappling with the impact of sequestration, the automatic budget cuts that kicked in when Congress failed to reach an agreement to reduce the federal budget. Although the cuts took effect March 1, the impact did not reach schools until the start of the current school year because of the way many education programs are funded.

The National Education Association estimates that if states and local school systems did not replace any of the funds lost through sequestration, nearly 300,000 students receiving special education services would be affected. The union estimated up to 7,800 jobs could be lost as a result of the federal budget cuts. It is unknown how many states or schools districts will replace some or all of that money from other sources, such as new tax revenues or cuts to other programs. But they may hesitate to replace federal funding even if they have the resources. That’s because by law, states and school districts that raise their funding for special education and then later reduce it, after adjusting for enrollment and other factors, can see their funding from the federal government cut. That requirement, known as maintenance of effort, means that even if the federal government eventually replaces the money cut through the sequester, school districts will be on the hook to spend more than they did before the automatic federal budget cuts.

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Federal policy, Special Education | Permalink


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