Report on local school districts found to have significant disproportionality :: 2012-2013

March 6th, 2016

This report focuses on local school districts (referred to as local educational agencies or LEAs) that have been found to have significant disproportionality in one or more categories of students receiving special education.

Disproportionality is the overrepresentation of minority or ethnic students in special education in the following categories:

  • Identification, including identification with a particular disability category (SLI, SLD, OHI, ID, AU, ED);
  • Placement in particular educational settings, or
  • Disciplinary actions (incidence, duration, and type), including suspension and expulsions.

If found to have significant disproportionality in one or more of the above categories, the local district must reserve 15 percent of its IDEA Part B federal funds for Coordinated Early Intervening Services (CEIS).

Districts must use all of the CEIS funds and must devote most but not all of the CEIS funds to serve children in the over-identified category or categories. LEAs  required to use 15 percent of their IDEA Part B federal funds on CEIS due to significant disproportionality may not reduce their local expenditures by any amount.

This is a complete listing of the LEAs that were required to spend 15% of Part B funds in the 2012-2013 school year due to having significant disproportionality.

The report provides:

- LEAs identified as having significant disproportionality during the referenced school year

- the category or categories of significant disproportionality;

- the amount of Part B funds reserved for Coordinated Early Intervening Services (CEIS).

A RECAP OF LEAs FOUND TO HAVE SIGNIFICANT DISPROPORTIONALITY:

A total of 489 LEAs in 28 states were required to use 15% of Part B funds for CEIS due to significant disproportionality.  The reserved funds to be spent totaled $239.6 million.

The 28 states and the number of LEAs within each state are as follows:

AL (3), AZ (1), AR (3), CA (50), CT (2), DE (4), FL (5), GA (16), IL (2), IN (58), IA (8), KY (8), LA (77), MD (3), MI (22), MN (8), MS (17), NJ (12), NM (2), NY (78), NC (12) OH (56), RI (28), SC (1), VA (6), WI (6), WY (2).

The following 23 states had no LEAs identified as having significant disproportionality: AK, CO, HI, ID, KS, ME, MA, MO, MT, NE, NV, NH, ND, OK, OR, PA, SD, TN, TX, UT, VT, WA, WV.

See table below for additional details.

The number of LEAs identified as having significant disproportionality and required to use 15 percent of IDEA Part B funds on CEIS in 2012-2013 was substantially higher than in the previous year. In 2011-2012, 247 LEAs were identified as having significant disproportionality. Those LEAs were required to spend $107.2 million in IDEA Part B funds on CEIS.

The uneven pattern of LEAs identified as having significant disproportionality reflects the varied definitions states have been allowed to develop to identify significant disproportionality. This inconsistent methodology is addressed in the proposed new federal regulation published in the Federal Register on March 2, 2016 (Vol. 81, No. 41, pgs. 10968-10998). Comments on the proposed rule can be submitted on or before May 16, 2016.

An analysis accompanying the proposed rule, A Multi-Year Disproportionality Analysis by State, Analysis Category, and Race/Ethnicity, found that 8,148 LEAs would have a finding of significant disproportionality when the methodology (risk ration threshold, minimum cell size and occurrence over multiple years) used in the analysis was applied or 16 times the number identified in 2012-2013.

An example of the dramatic increase in LEAs identified with significant disproportionality using the methodology in the analysis is the state of Florida. Using its current methodology, Florida identified 2 LEAs for significant disproportionality in disciplinary removals while 26 LEAs would be identified using the methodology in the analysis – all for disciplinary removals of Black/African American students. Based on data collected by the Office for Civil Rights, Florida has the highest rate of out-of-school suspensions of students with disabilities in the country (see report here).

 Total LEAs and Number of LEAs identified with significant disproportionality

(This table is also included in the last page of the report.)

STATE Total LEAs # LEAs with disproportionality STATE Total LEAs # LEAs with disproportionality
AL 176 3 MT 422 0
AK 54 0 NC 250 12
AR 279 1 ND 184 0
AZ 685 1 NE 280 0
CA                1,052 50 NH 178 0
CO 245 0 NJ 691 12
CT 197 2 NM 150 2
DC 63 1 NV 19 0
DE 43 4 NY            1,008 78
FL 75 5 OH            1,100 56
GA 203 16 OK 550 0
HI 1 0 OR 208 0
IA 357 8 PA 738 0
ID 153 0 RI 57 28
IL 878 2 SC 109 1
IN 393 58 SD 156 0
KS 293 0 TN 142 0
KY 176 8 TX            1,256 0
LA 144 77 UT 132 0
MA 418 0 VA 151 6
MD 25 3 VT 339 0
ME 259 0 WA 305 0
MI 930 22 WI 456 6
MN 537 8 WV 57 0
MO 573 0 WY 61 2
MS 163 17 National 17,371 489

 

“Raise the Caps” Day of Action September 10, 2015

September 8th, 2015

NDD United To Urge Congress To Raise Spending Caps
Add Your Voice to “Raise the Caps” Day of Action

September 7, 2015

Washington, DC—Just weeks before federal funding runs out and draconian budget cuts stopped by a 2013 Congressional budget deal are scheduled to go back into effect, more than 2,500 national, state and local organizations are calling on Congress to avoid the impending fiscal crisis and end sequestration. NDD United, which represents organizations spanning interests as varied as education, public health, infrastructure, and law enforcement, released a letter demanding Congress raise the spending caps and end sequestration through a bipartisan budget deal before October 1, 2015. A deal would prevent drastic cuts to programs for women’s health, early education, transportation safety, law enforcement and veterans’ care, among others.

“We’re running out of time to prevent another fiscal crisis, and once again, real Americans will pay the price for Congress’ inaction,” said Emily Holubowich, Co-Chair of NDD United. “If Congress doesn’t raise the spending caps and end sequestration, veterans could lose medical care, preschools could close, women could be denied access to prenatal and family planning services, and so much more.”

“That’s why more than 2,500 organizations have come together to say, Raise the Caps,” added Joel Packer, Co-Chair of NDD United. “Enough is enough. We see the speeding train coming down the track, and we’re not doing nearly enough to stop it.”

More than 2,500 organizations represented by NDD United signed a letter to Congress calling to avoid such budget tragedy. The letter reads in part:

“The undersigned national, state, and local organizations, representing the hundreds of millions of Americans who support and benefit from NDD programs, urge you to replace sequestration with a balanced approach to deficit reduction that takes into account the deep cuts NDD has already incurred since 2010. We also urge you to ensure such sequestration relief is equally balanced between NDD and defense programs; a parity precedent set in the 2013 Bipartisan Budget Act (BBA) negotiated by Senator Patty Murray and Congressman Paul Ryan… There is bipartisan agreement that sequestration is bad policy and ultimately hurts our nation. It’s time to end the era of austerity.”

In 2013, Congress approved a bipartisan budget deal that relieved the impacts of sequestration for 2014 and 2015. This “Murray-Ryan” deal temporarily masked sequestration’s true impact. With sequestration relief expiring October 1 and appropriations bills now being written to the sequestered spending caps, we are seeing the difficult tradeoffs necessitated by woefully inadequate and historically low levels of spending after years of deficit reduction. In fact, current NDD funding is the lowest level on record dating back to the Eisenhower administration, relative to the size of the economy.

Discretionary programs, including nondefense discretionary (NDD) programs—ranging from education and job training, to housing and science, to natural resources and veterans services, to public health, safety and security—have been cut dramatically and disproportionately in recent years as lawmakers work to reduce the deficit, even though experts across the political spectrum agree these programs aren’t a driving factor behind our nation’s mid- and long-term fiscal challenges.

In 2013, NDD United released a comprehensive, sector-by-sector impact report, Faces of Austerity, which detailed how real Americans are feeling the negative effects of austerity. For a copy of the report or to learn more about NDD United, please visit nddunited.org.

Only by ending sequestration and raising spending caps can more money be allocated to support the deliver of special education services and supports for students with disabilities. Check out the funding gap for your state.

__________________________________________________________________

MESSAGE TO MEMBERS OF CONGRESS ON “RAISE THE CAPS” DAY ~ SEPTEMBER 10 2015

Contact your members of Congress (two Senators, one Representative) on Thursday, September 10, 2015. Use Contacting The Congress to quickly find your members. Use each member’s contact form to send a Raise the Cap message. Amplify your message by calling your members! Call the United States Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and a switchboard operator will connect you directly with the office you request. Tweet out your message using #RaisetheCaps.

SAMPLE MESSAGE

It’s time for Congress to focus its attention on the impending fiscal crisis! As my elected member, you have no greater responsibility than the adequate and timely funding of the U.S. government. Yet members of Congress have repeatedly failed to live up to this responsibility for several consecutive years, putting critical programs at risk.

It’s time for Congress to end the political games, and stand up for what’s right for Americans from all walks of life by ending sequestration and raising the spending cap. There is bipartisan agreement that sequestration is bad policy and ultimately hurts our nation. End sequestration through a bipartisan budget deal before October 1, 2015.

Congressman wants changes to IDEA MOE rules

July 27th, 2015

Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Mich., has intro­duced the Building on Local District Flexibility in IDEA Act, H.R. 2965. The bill makes substantial changes to current maintenance of effort rules governing local educational agencies (or school districts).  Below is the text of the bill.

 

114th CONGRESS
  1st Session
                                H. R. 2965

  To amend the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act to provide 
 certain exceptions to the maintenance of effort requirement for local 
             educational agencies, and for other purposes.

_______________________________________________________________________

                    IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

                              July 8, 2015

Mr. Walberg (for himself, Mr. Moolenaar, Mr. Ribble, Mr. Benishek, and 
   Mr. Bishop of Michigan) introduced the following bill; which was 
        referred to the Committee on Education and the Workforce

_______________________________________________________________________

                                 A BILL

  To amend the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act to provide 
 certain exceptions to the maintenance of effort requirement for local 
             educational agencies, and for other purposes.

    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the 
United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

    This Act may be cited as the ``Building on Local District 
Flexibility in IDEA Act''.

SEC. 2. EXCEPTIONS TO THE MAINTENANCE OF EFFORT REQUIREMENT FOR LOCAL 
              EDUCATIONAL AGENCIES.

    Section 613(a)(2) of the Individuals with Disabilities Education 
Act (20 U.S.C. 1413(a)(2)) is amended--
            (1) in subparagraph (A)(iii), by striking ``subparagraphs 
        (B) and (C)'' and inserting ``subparagraphs (B), (C), and 
        (E)'';
            (2) in subparagraph (B)--
                    (A) in clause (iii)(III), by striking ``or'' at the 
                end;
                    (B) in clause (iv), by striking the period at the 
                end and inserting a semicolon; and
                    (C) by adding at the end the following:
                            ``(v) improved efficiencies that do not 
                        result in a reduction in special education 
                        services; or
                            ``(vi) the reduction of expenditures for 
                        employment related benefits provided to special 
                        education personnel (such as pay, retirement 
                        contributions, annual and sick leave, and 
                        health and life insurance) provided that such 
                        reduction of expenditures does not result in a 
                        reduction in special education services.''; and
            (3) by adding at the end the following:
                    ``(E) Waivers for exceptional or uncontrollable 
                circumstances.--The State educational agency may waive 
                the requirements of subparagraph (A)(iii) for a local 
                educational agency, for 1 fiscal year at a time, if--
                            ``(i) the State educational agency 
                        determines that the local educational agency 
                        has not reduced the level of expenditures for 
                        the education of children with disabilities for 
                        such fiscal year disproportionately to other 
                        expenditures; and
                            ``(ii)(I) the State educational agency 
                        determines that granting a waiver would be 
                        equitable due to exceptional or uncontrollable 
                        circumstances such as a natural disaster or a 
                        precipitous and unforeseen decline in the 
                        financial resources of the local educational 
                        agency; or
                            ``(II) the local educational agency 
                        provides clear and convincing evidence to the 
                        State educational agency that all children with 
                        disabilities have available to them a free 
                        appropriate public education and the State 
                        educational agency concurs with the evidence 
                        provided by the local educational agency.''.

MOE Rule Finalized, Finally

April 30th, 2015

Today, some 18 months after proposed, the U.S. Dept. of Education issued the final federal regulations amending Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) governing the requirement that local educational agencies maintain fiscal effort, or maintenance of effort (MOE). The new regulations are effective July 1, 2015.

The final MOE regulations provide clarification on the following:

  • the Subsequent Years rule,
  • the eligibility and compliance standards,
  • the four methods available to LEAs to meet the eligibility and compliance standards, and
  • the existing exceptions and adjustment in §§ 300.204 and 300.205.

Subsequent Years rule

This amendment expands the LEA (aka school district) eligibility standard by clearly establishing that if an LEA fails to meet its MOE requirement for any fiscal year, the level of funding required for any subsequent year (beginning or or after July 1, 2015) is the amount that would have been required in the absence of that failure – not the LEA’s reduced level of expenditures.

Now known as the “Subsequent Years Rule” (§300.203 (c)), this clarification codifies the OSEP April 2012 Letter to Boundy which challenged an earlier OSEP interpretation in its Letter to East. IDEA Money Watch supporters worked hard to bring about this reversal, including language in the federal Appropriations Acts of 2014 and 2015 pending new regulations. Now, with the release of these final regulations, this matter is put to rest.

The regulations include a number of tables to assist States and LEAs in establishing a thorough understanding of how an LEA may comply with the Subsequent Years rule.

Four methods available to LEAs to meet the eligibility and compliance standards 

The regulations now makes clear that the an LEA may meet the compliance standard using one of four methods and that SEAs must permit LEAs to do so. The four methods are:

(1) Local funds only, (2) the combination of State and local funds, (3) local funds only on a per capita basis, or (4) the combination of State and local funds on a per capita basis.

It is also established that an LEA may change methods to establish compliance from one year to the next. LEAs may meet the compliance standard using alternate methods from year to year. The regulations include a number of tables that provide examples of how an LEA may meet the compliance standard using alternate methods.

Existing exceptions and adjustment in §§ 300.204 and 300.205 

The regulations establish that LEAs may include any allowable MOE reductions (as laid out in §§ 300.204 and 300.205) that it is eligible to take preparing a budget for the upcoming year. It had previously been unclear if this was allowable.

 

Understanding Full Funding

March 12th, 2015

What, exactly, is “full funding” of IDEA?

The term is misleading, and, therefore, the funding “promise” made by Congress in IDEA is often misrepresented. It’s really pretty simple, however.

Back in 1975 when Congress enacted original special education law – then called the Education of All Handicapped Children Act and later renamed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act – Congress set a maximum target for the federal contribution to special education spending equal to 40 percent of the estimated excess cost of educating children with disabilities. At the time, Congress estimated that educating children with disabilities would cost approximately twice as much as it costs to educate non-disabled children. So, Congress committed to providing 40% of the excess cost of providing special education (not 100% as is often reported), and set the federal contribution at 40% of the average per pupil expenditure (APPE) nationwide. (Note: One nationwide study showed that special education costs are 1.9 times that expended on general education students.)

So then, if IDEA were “fully funded,” the annual federal appropriation would be 40% of the national average per pupil expenditure - referred to as “APPE” – for elementary and secondary education times the number of children with disabilities served. To be clear, when sent off to local school districts around the country, that amount would not be 40% of the excess cost in every district – the percent would vary depending on how much each local district spends on education. The amount districts spend “per pupil” varies significantly across the nation!

Check out your state’s IDEA funding gap below:

2015 IDEA Funding Gap by State

Source: National Education Association The Federal Funding Gap under IDEA. Chart reprinted with permission.

SPECIAL REPORT: School District MOE Reductions, Determinations and CEIS Now Available

March 6th, 2015

Information on the reductions to maintenance of effort (MOE), determinations of IDEA compliance and use of IDEA Part B funds for Coordinated Early Intervening Services* for the 2011-2012 school year for every local educational agency (LEA) or school district was released to the public in February 2015.

States are required to report this information annually to the U.S. Dept. of Education as part of a larger data submission required under Section 618 of the IDEA. The data files are available from this website.

Using the data reported under Maintenance of Effort Reduction and Coordinated Early Intervening Services for 2011-2012, IDEA Money Watch has compiled three separate reports. (Information on how to access the data file appears at the end of this report.)

Report One: MAINTENANCE OF EFFORT (MOE) REDUCTIONS

This is a complete listing of the LEAs that reduced MOE in the 2011-2012 school year. Under certain conditions, LEAs are allowed to reduce the amount spent on special education by up to 50% of an increase in federal or state and federal funds from one year to the next. The freed-up funds must be used for activities authorized under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

The report provides:
- the LEA/ESA allocation amounts for IDEA Part B 611 (school age) and 619 (3-5 year olds) for the reference Federal fiscal year and the previous Federal fiscal year

- the LEA/ESA determination under 34 CFR § 300.600(a)(2)

- the Amount of the MOE Reduction the LEA/ESA took under Section 613(a)(2)(C) for the reference school year.

A RECAP OF MOE REDUCTIONS:

Across all states and territories, 304 LEAs took MOE reductions totaling $10.1 million. States with one or more LEAs taking an MOE reduction include:

AL (9), CA (25), IN (13), KY (13), LA (4), MA (15), MO (10), NE (50), NM (56), OH (8), OK (48), PA (35), TX (12), UT (3) and WI (3).

Not all of these LEAs were eligible to take a reduction in MOE. To be eligible to reduce MOE, an LEA must have:

- received an increase in the Part B allocation between 2010 and 2011 AND
- received a “meets requirements” determination.

LEAs that took an MOE reduction and DID NOT have a “meets requirements” determination are highlighted in yellow on the listing. The vast majority of these LEA are in the state of New Mexico, where 24 LEAs reduced MOE unlawfully.

Some LEAs took an MOE reduction without the requisite increase in annual allocation, indicated by a (-) sign in the far right column on the listing. In Nebraska, 36 LEAs reduced MOE without having received an increase in funding.

Report Two: MANDATORY PROVISION OF COORDINATED EARLY INTERVENING SERVICES (CEIS)

This is a complete listing of the LEAs that were required to spend 15% of Part B funds in the 2011-2012 school year due to having significant disproportionality.  Disproportionality is the overrepresentation of minority or ethnic students in special education identification, placement, or disciplinary actions. In such cases, the local district must use all of the CEIS funds and must devote most but not all of the CEIS funds to serve children in the over identified group or groups. LEAs  required to use 15 percent of their IDEA Part B federal funds on CEIS due to significant disproportionality may not reduce their local expenditures by any amount.

The report provides:

- LEAs identified as having significant disproportionality during the reference school year

- the amount required  to be reserved for Coordinated Early Intervening Services (CEIS)(15 percent of Part B funds)

- the amount of Part B funds spent on Coordinated Early Intervening Services (CEIS)

- the number of students who received CEIS during the reference school year and the number of children who received CEIS at any time during the reference school year and the two preceding school years and received special education and related services during the reference school year.

A RECAP OF MANDATORY CEIS USE:

A total of 347 LEAs were required to use 15% of Part B funds for CEIS due to significant disproportionality. These LEAs were in 25 states. The amount spent totaled $107.2 million. The states and number of LEAs within each state are as follows:

AK (1), AR (6), AZ (1), DC (5), DE (7), FL (11), GA (31), IA (7), IL (5), IN (1), KY (10), LA (104), MD (1), MI (36), MS (25), NC (3), NJ (12), NM (2), NY (36), OH (2), OR (1), RI (24), UT (1), VA (9), WI (5)

The following states had no LEAs identified as having significant disproportionality: AL, CA, CO, CT, HI, ID, KS, ME, MA, MN, MO, MT, NE, NV, NH, ND, OK, PA, SC, SD, TN, TX, VT, WA, WV, WY.

The number of LEAs required to provide CEIS in 2011-2012 was very similar to the number required in the previous school year (2010-2011). In that year 356 LEAs were required to provide CEIS.

The uneven pattern of LEAs identified as having significant disproportionality is reflective of the varied definitions states have been allowed to develop. This issue was explored in great detail in a 2013 report from the Government Accountability Office entitled “IDEA: Standards Needed to Improve Identification of Racial and Ethnic Overrepresentation in Special Education.”  A new report from The Civil Rights Project, Are We Closing the School Discipline Gap?, provides extensive data that underscores the need for federal oversight and the comments submitted by the Civil Rights Project in 2014 articulate specific recommendations.

Report Three: VOLUNTARY USE OF PART B FUNDS TO PROVIDE COORDINATED EARLY INTERVENING SERVICES (CEIS)

This is a complete listing of the LEAs that elected to voluntarily use up to 15% of their Part B funds in the 2011-2012 school year to provide Coordinated Early Intervening Services (CEIS).

The report provides:

- LEAs that voluntarily used Part B funds to provide CEIS during the reference school year

- the amount of Part B funds the LEA voluntarily spent on Coordinated Early Intervening Services (CEIS)

- the percent of Part B funds the LEA voluntarily spent on Coordinated Early Intervening Services (CEIS)(may not exceed 15 percent of Part B funds)

- the number of students who received CEIS during the reference school year.

A RECAP OF VOLUNTARY CEIS USE:

A total of 44 states and territories had LEAs that voluntarily used Part B funds for CEIS. Across these 1243 LEAs, the amount spent totaled $109.3 million. The amount an LEA may reduce its MOE (Report One) is reduced by any amount the LEA voluntarily uses for CEIS (not to exceed 15%).

The states and number of LEAs within each state that voluntarily used Part B funds for CEIS are as follows:

AL (3), AR (33), AZ (20), BIA (71), CA (11), CT (16), DE (3), FL (16), GA (5), HI (1), IA (12), IL (198), IN (18), KS (1), LA (21), ME (22), MI (19), MN (133), MS (46), MO (7), NE (34), NV (35), NH (10), NJ (8), NM (11), NY (30), NC (9), ND (8), OH (77), OK (18), OR (14), PA (10), RI (6), SC (31), SD (13), TN (7), TX (148), UT (16), VA (8), VI (1), VT (9), WA (8), WI (86), WY (24).

The number of LEAs voluntarily using Part B funds for CEIS in 2011-2012 is similar to the number in the previous year when 1265 LEAs provided CEIS voluntarily.

“““““““““““““““““`

*Coordinated Early Intervening Services are services provided to students in kindergarten through grade 12 (with a particular emphasis on students in kindergarten through grade three) who are not currently identified as needing special education or related services, but who need additional academic and behavioral supports to succeed in a general education environment. The IDEA (20 U.S.C. §1413(f)(2)) and its regulations (34 CFR §300.226(b)) identify the activities that may be included as: (1) professional development for teachers and other school staff to enable such personnel to deliver scientifically based academic and behavioral interventions, including scientifically based literacy instruction, and, where appropriate, instruction on the use of adaptive and instructional software; and (2) providing educational and behavioral evaluations, services, and supports, including scientifically based literacy instruction.

“““““““““““““““““`

To access the entire set of data, download this file. NOTE: To open this file in Excel, right click on the link, select “save link as” then select “all files” under save as. This should allow you to save the file to your computer and open in Excel.

Additional information about this data collection is available in this documentation (WORD).

 

House leaders request $1.5 billion increase for IDEA

April 30th, 2014

Washington, D.C.                                                                                  

Yesterday, April 29, 2014, Education Secretary Arne Duncan appeared before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and the Workforce to discuss the President’s FY 2015 Budget Request.  (See our earlier blog about the level of IDEA funding included in the President’s Budget.)

Duncan was peppered with questions regarding the persistent lack of funding for IDEA throughout the hearing. Following the hearing, Chairman Klein issued a press release stating that “Years ago the federal government pledged to provide critical support to special needs children, yet Republicans and Democrats alike have repeatedly failed to keep that promise. As I told Secretary Arne Duncan earlier today, parents and school leaders aren’t asking for new competitive grants or funding for duplicative early childhood programs – they’re begging for more support for the nation’s most vulnerable students. It’s time to reassess our priorities, and I am going to do everything in my power to advocate for a renewed federal commitment to children with disabilities.”

Klein and other Republican leaders issued a formal request for a $1.5 billion increase in IDEA Part B funding in the Fiscal Year 2015 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, bringing the total funding to $13 billion.

The Committee also issued the chart below, detailing the IDEA funding gap in every state, with this explanation:

The assumption underlying the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and its predecessor legislation is that, on average, the cost of educating children with disabilities is twice the average cost (measured as the national average per pupil expenditure or APPE) of educating other children. Congress determined that the federal government would pay up to 40 percent of this “excess” cost, which is referred to as full funding. Since 1981, the first year for which full funding was 40 percent of APPE, the federal share has remained less than half of the federal commitment based on regular appropriations. As a result, states and school districts are forced to absorb the additional costs not funded by the federal government to meet the needs to which these students are legally entitled. In 2014 alone this cost is almost $17.6 billion. 

IDEA funding gap by state 2014

President gives IDEA less than one percent boost

March 4th, 2014

March 4, 2014                                                                                                                      Washington, D.C.

Today President Obama released his Fiscal Year 2015 Budget request. The $12.6 billion request for Special Education programs represents 18 percent of the total budget for the Education Department (see chart below).  It includes $11.6 billion for Grants to States, an increase of $100 million from fiscal year 2014 (more about this $100 million increase below), to maintain the Federal contribution toward meeting the excess cost of special education at approximately 16 percent of the national average per pupil expenditure (APPE) and provide an estimated average of $1,758 per student for about 6.6 million children ages 3 through 21.

2015 Education Budget Request piechart

Special Education Grants to States (in millions)

2013 Actual: $10,974.9
2014 Actual: $11,472.8
2015 Request: $11,572.8

Estimated average Federal share per child (in whole dollars)

2013 Actual: $1,674
2014 Actual: $1,743
2015 Request: $1,758

Full Education budget request documents:

Overview: Supporting Individuals with Disabilities PDF [92K] The Grants to States program, which is authorized under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), makes formula grants that help States pay the additional costs of providing special education and related services to children with disabilities aged 3 through 21 years. The FY 2015 request would provide a per-child average of $1,758 for an estimated 6.6 million children with disabilities, which represents a Federal contribution of about 16 percent of the national average per pupil expenditure. Under the IDEA, States are required to provide a free appropriate public education to all children with disabilities. Services are provided in accordance with individualized education programs that are developed by teams that include the child’s parents; a special educator; a representative of the local educational agency; a regular educator, if appropriate; and others. In addition, services must be provided—to the maximum extent appropriate—in the least restrictive environment, which for most children means in classes with children who are not disabled. Students with disabilities also must be included in general State and district-wide assessments, including the assessments required under ESEA, and States must provide appropriate accommodations, where necessary, to enable children with disabilities to participate in these assessments, or alternate assessments for those children who cannot participate in regular assessments. The request includes $100 million for Results Driven Accountability Incentive grants, which would provide competitive grants to States to implement State Systemic Implementation Plans to improve results for children with disabilities ages birth through 21. These incentive grants would be used by States to identify and implement promising, evidence-based reforms that would improve service delivery for children with disabilities while building State and local capacity to improve long-term outcomes for those children.(More about Results Driven Accountability is available here.) NOTE: IDEA Money Watch objects to this proposal. Competitive grantmaking should not be introduced into the IDEA formula grant program. This approach was also questioned by members of the House Appropriations Committee during a hearing on the President’s Education budget. The history of Federal funding for IDEA is shown in the chart below, from the Committee on Education Funding. 

IDEA Approps History

Feds issue guidance on use of IDEA funds for technology

February 11th, 2014

February 5, 2014

The U.S. Dept. of Education has released a document providing examples of how funds from ESEA (Titles I, II, III) and IDEA may be used to support the use of technology to improve instruction and student outcomes. Full document available here.

Examples provided include:

Expand the Use of Technology in the Individualized Education Program Process
States may use IDEA Part B set-aside funds to support the use of technology to help reduce
paperwork and digitize the Individualized Education Program (IEP) process for families and teachers.

Use Technology to Communicate with Parents
States may use IDEA Part D State Professional Development Grants (SPDG) to enhance both special
education and general education teachers’ ability to effectively integrate technology to communicate
with parents of students with disabilities.

Provide Students with Assistive Technology Devices
States may use IDEA Part B funds set aside for State-level activities to support the use of assistive
technology devices that maximize accessibility to the general education curriculum for students with
disabilities.

Districts may use IDEA Part B funds to provide the specific assistive technology devices and services that are identified by the IEP team as needed by an individual student to receive free appropriate public education.

The document emphasizes that these “are just a few examples of allowable uses of grant program funds that may support the development, implementation, and expansion of technology-based approaches to help improve student achievement and educator effectiveness.”

New Mexico could lose more than $60M in special ed funding

February 1st, 2014

There’s a big mess brewing in the Land of Enchantment. And it could cost the state dearly in Federal funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

State auditor Hector Balderas, following a detailed audit of the NM Education Dept. (available here), directed the education dept. to provide details on why it failed to provide adequate state funding for special education in two consecutive years, in violation of the IDEA’s “maintenance of effort” or MOE requirements.

STATE MOE REQUIREMENTS
Under 34 CFR §300.163(a), “a State must not reduce the amount of State financial support for
special education and related services for children with disabilities, or otherwise made available
because of the excess costs of educating those children, below the amount of that support for the
preceding fiscal year.” If a State fails to maintain the required level of financial support for special education and related services, under 34 CFR §300.163(b); the Secretary of Education reduces the
allocation of funds under section 611 of the IDEA for any fiscal year following the fiscal year in
which the State fails to comply with the requirement of34 CFR §300.163(a) by the same amount
by which the State fails to meet the requirement. (Letter to states clarifying MOE)

IDEA authorizes very limited waivers to the State MOE requirement. The Secretary of Education may find that a waiver is equitable due to exceptional or uncontrollable circumstances such as a natural disaster (e.g., Hurricane Katrina) or precipitous and unforeseen decline in the financial resources of the state, or the State meets the exceptionally high standards for a waiver of the supplement not supplant requirement – i.e., an SEA can establish that a free appropriate public education is provided to all eligible children with disabilities in the State.  (This type of waiver has never been granted.) USED issued guidance on the process and criteria used to evaluate a request by states to waive maintenance of effort (MOE) requirements in 2009.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT

Balderas said his office wants to find out why the department didn’t comply and why it took so long to disclose what was happening.

The New Mexico Education Dept. requested a waiver (as allowed under IDEA) for two years – 2009-2010 and 2010-2011. In June 2013 the US Dept. of Ed informed New Mexico that it was granting the waiver for 2009-2010 but not for 2010-2011 hence the potential loss of funds.

According to a story in the Santa Fe New Mexico paper, New Mexico has appealed the denial of the waiver for 2010-2011. Lawyers from both sides will meet in Washington, D.C., on April 8 to lay out the legal groundwork.

Documents regarding New Mexico’s MOE waiver requests:

  • NM Waiver Request for 2010-2011
    PDF
  • NM Waiver Request for 2009-2010
    PDF
  • USED Response
    PDF
  • State Audit Report
    (PDF)

 

Budget Deal Brings Increase to IDEA

January 30th, 2014

H.R. 3547 – the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2014, was signed into law by the President on January 17, 2014. It provides $1.012 trillion in discretionary spending and funds the government through September 30, 2014.

The Act provides $11.473 billion in federal funds for IDEA Part B Grants to States – a $498 million increase (+4.5%) over the FY 2013 post-sequestration level.

Included in the Act is language that specifies that the level of effort (spending on special education) an LEA must meet “in the year after it fails to maintain its fiscal effort is the level that it should have met in the prior year. This language clarifies congressional intent and is consistent with the Office of Special Education Program’s April 4, 2012 informal guidance letter on this issue”

The April 4, 2012 informal guidance referenced here is the Letter to Boundy in which the U.S. Dept. of Education withdrew an earlier interpretation on the issue articulated in Letter to East.

This action was the result of enormous advocacy efforts by hundreds of advocates around the country coupled with expert legal analysis by the Center for Law and Education’s Co-Director Kathleen B. Boundy. Thanks again to all those who worked on this issue with us back in 2012.

Proposed federal regulations released in September 2013 include the level of effort interpretation laid out in Letter to Boundy as well as other clarifications regarding maintenance of effort requirements for local educational agencies. Final regulations should be released this spring. Meanwhile, the language included in the budget deal bill serves as a reminder of the expectation regarding local effort in order to receive federal IDEA funding.

On a less positive note, the increase in IDEA Part B funds for 2014 will trigger the IDEA provision allowing LEAs to take a reduction in local spending in years when federal funds increase over the previous year. Known as the “50% rule,” it allows LEAs in good standing (i.e., a “Meets Requirements” rating from its State Educational Agency) to reduce local spending on special education by up to half of the increase in federal funds over the previous year. And, even if the increased federal funding is not maintained in subsequent years, LEAs may remain at this reduced level of effort.

The 2014 increase still leaves IDEA Part B federal funding well below IDEA’s commitment to provide 40% of the excess cost of special education – a level often called “full funding.”

The chart below, prepared by the Committee for Education Funding, provides a brief history of IDEA Part B funding.

History of IDEA State Grants

Advocate/Activist’s Call to Action!

November 13th, 2013

“Do you know what Sequestration is and what it is doing to your child’s right to a Free Appropriate Public Education?  It is imperative that you do. 

As an advocate considered to have advanced training, I say the following.  Lay, Education, Parent Advocates (we have many names) cannot advocate on a child by child basis without being an activist and fighting/lobbying to change the state and federal, rules, laws, policies, appropriations and attitudes that have continued to set the very lowest bar of expectations for our nation’s children with disabilities. We need to be in the thick of discussions at our state and federal level and as Ghandi so eloquently once said, ‘Be the change you want to see….’

So where am I going with my soapbox?  I am urging  each and every individual who believes in America, and what it once was, and what it must be, to use your voice, pen, email and person to put an end to ‘sequestration’, and before the second round of sequester cuts take effect in January 2014.  Sequestration, these slash and burn cuts across all federally funded programs is not the way to balance our budget or educate America’s children, EACH and EVERY ONE.

So hop on the the “Sequester Circuit.” Become a valued resource to education staff writers at your local and statewide newspapers, along with National Public Radio affiliates. Your voice, pen and presence matter.”

Marcie Lipsitt
Michigan Alliance for Special Education

Listen to Marcie’s interview on Michigan NPR

New Report on Impact of Sequestration

November 13th, 2013

Under sequestration, federal funding for discretionary programs – including both defense and nondefense (called nondefense discretionary or NDD) – will face more than $700 billion in cuts over the next eight years.

In two years, NDD spending will equal a smaller percentage of our economy than ever before – if lawmakers do not act to replace sequestration with a more meaningful and comprehensive deficit reduction strategy.

The Advocacy Institute – sponsor of IDEA Money Watch - has joined with thousands of organizations to form NDD United and to create a new report on the impact of sequestration across programs that rely on discretionary federal funding, including federal funds to support the provision of special education services as required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

The report,
Faces of Austerity: How Budget Cuts Have Made Us Sicker, Poorer, and Less Secure

is available at NDD United.

Now, here’s what YOU can do:

Contact your members of Congress (two Senators, one House member) and tell them to put an end to sequestration and avoid any cuts to federal funds for IDEA.

Use Contacting the Congress to locate the contact information for your members and send your messages.

Our nation’s 6 million students with disabilities are counting on you!

ED Proposes Amendments to IDEA MOE Rules

September 19th, 2013

U.S. Dept. of Education (USED)
Proposed amendments to IDEA Part B federal regulations
regarding local maintenance of effort

Notice of Proposed Rulemaking
Federal Register/Vo. 78, No. 181
September 18, 2013

Comments due on or before December 10, 2013
Submit comments via www.Regulations.gov
Docket ID ED-2012-OSERS-0020

Purpose: To clarify existing policy and make other related changes regarding:

  • The compliance standard;
  • the eligibility standard;
  • the level of effort required of a local educational agency (LEA) in the year after it fails to maintain effort under the IDEA;
  • the consequence for a failure to maintain local effort.

Comments sought regarding:

  • Whether States and LEAs or other interested parties think these proposed amendments will be helpful in increasing understanding of, and ensuring compliance with, the current local maintenance of effort requirements.
  • The specific problems States and LEAs are experiencing in implementing the maintenance of effort requirements.

In proposing these amendments, USED reports that it has identified a number of problems with State administration of the LEA MOE requirements under current IDEA regulations. Specifically, USED has found that at least 40 percent of States have policies and procedures that are not consistent with how States should determine eligibility or compliance. These State polices could be either more restrictive or more lenient than current regulation.

Summary of proposed amendments:

  1. Expands the compliance standard by adding an LEA MOE requirement that States must apply when determining whether an LEA is eligible for Part B funds each year.Specifically, an LEA must budget at least the same total or per capita amount of local, or State and local, fund as it spent during the most recent prior year.Or, if using only local funds, an LEA must meet in total or per capita the same level of local funds for the most recent fiscal year for which the LEA met its MOE based on local funds only.Clarifies that Federal funds may not be considered in determining whether an LEA meets the standard.(Note: As explained in The Basics on maintenance of effort, LEAs may reduce level of expenditures under certain circumstances. The extra funds paid to LEAs via the Recovery Act allowed for a reduction in local funds under certain circumstances. State and LEA level reductions taken are available here.)
  2. Expands the eligibility standard by clearly establishing that if an LEA fails to meet its MOE requirement for any fiscal year, the level of funding required for any subsequent year (beginning or or after July 1, 2014) is the amount that would have been required in the absence of that failure – not the LEA’s reduced level of expenditures. (As stated in Letter to Boundy)
  3. Expands the consequences of failure to maintain effort by clearing establishing that if an LEA fails to maintain its level of expenditures in accordance with the compliance standard, the State is liable to return (using non-Federal funds) to the U.S. Dept. of Education an amount equal to the amount by which the LEA failed to maintain its level. (In such circumstances, the State may, in turn, seek to recoup the funds from the LEA.)

TAKE ACTION:

thumbs upIDEA Money Watch supports these proposed regulations. You are urged to submit comments in support of the proposal via Regulations.gov by Dec. 10, 2013.

Here’s how: Go to the docket on Regulations.gov. Click on the blue “Comment Now!” button in the upper right of the page. Fill in your comments (paste the suggested comments below/add more/compile your own), fill in additional information requested, click “Continue,” preview your comment then submit.

Suggested comments for submission to Regulations.gov:

“I support the proposed amendments to IDEA Part B federal regulations regarding local maintenance of effort. As proposed, these amendments will provide several important clarifications to current regulations and will serve to ensure improved compliance with federal requirements. Additionally, these amendments will provide important clarification to situations not currently addressed in regulation, avoiding future misinterpretations.”

More extensive comments are available here.

A comparison of current regulation and these proposed regulations is available here.

 

 

IDEA Sequester Reductions :: State-by-State

February 28th, 2013

IDEA sequestration cuts

Source: State-by-State IDEA Impact retrieved from http://www.ed.gov/blog/2013/02/sequestration-would-hurt-students-teachers-and-schools/

Senate Appropriations Committee gives IDEA funding a boost; reinforces MOE requirement

June 14th, 2012

The Labor, HHS, Education Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Appropriations voted Tuesday, June 12, 2012, to provide additional funding for the IDEA and other programs that go to assisting children with disabilities.

The bill was approved by the full Appropriations Committee on June 14, 2012.

Thumbs UpThe Labor, HHS, Education appropriations bill also includes “new language clarifying that the level of effort under part B that an LEA must meet in the year after it fails to maintain its fiscal effort is the level that it should have met in the prior year. This language clarifies congressional intent and is consistent with OSEP’s April 4, 2012, informal guidance letter on the issue.”  (Page 179 of bill text)

A summary of the increases proposed in the bill is below.

Education for Individuals With Disabilities (IDEA).—The bill provides $11.678 billion, an increase of $100 million, under section 611 of part B grants to States for educating students with disabilities between the age of 3 and 21.

The bill also includes $463 million, an increase of $20 million, to support statewide systems of coordinated and early intervention services for children with disabilities two years old and younger, as well as their families. (Part C of IDEA)

Promoting School Readiness for Minors in SSI (PROMISE).—In fiscal year 2012, Congress created PROMISE, an interagency effort to improve outcomes for children, and the families of children, receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. This program will encourage State-level innovations that can help young people with disabilities enter and succeed in competitive, integrated employment. The bill includes nearly $12 million and the authority to allocate unspent vocational rehabilitation State grant funds within the Department of Education for this effort, in addition to $7.2 million at SSA.NCSER funding

Special Education Research.—The bill includes $59.9 million, an increase of $10 million, to support research on how children and adults with disabilities learn and how best to meet their learning needs. (This increase restores half of the cut made to Special Education Research (NCSER) in 2011 – see chart at right.)

Assistive Technology.—The bill provides $37.5 million, an increase of $4.7 million, for State assistive technology programs. These programs support a range of activities to serve people with disabilities, including State financing programs, device reutilization and loan programs, and device demonstrations.

More:

Bill summary: http://www.appropriations.senate.gov/news.cfm?method=news.view&id=3c7490eb-8227-4152-84ea-2d65b683accf

Bill text: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CRPT-112srpt176/pdf/CRPT-112srpt176.pdf

US ED reverses position on maintenance of effort

April 4th, 2012

Letter to BoundyFor Immediate Release
April 4, 2012

Today the U.S. Department of Education (USED) issued a letter to the Center for Law and Education (CLE) regarding the local maintenance of effort requirement of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. In the letter, USED informs CLE that it is withdrawing its Letter to East of June 16, 2011.

IDEA Money Watch first reported on this issue back in August of 2011. The Center for Law and Education – our legal collaborator – issued a response to the Letter to East, explaining why the USED interpretation was inaccurate. Following that, parents and advocates across the nation went to work – sending letters to both USED and members of Congress asking for a re-examination of the legal interpretation put forward in Letter to East.

We are overjoyed that those efforts paid off. Thanks to everyone who worked hard to make this happen!

Contacts:
Candace Cortiella
Candace at AdvocacyInstitute.org

Kathleen B. Boundy, Esq.
Kboundy at cleweb.org

Obama ignores special ed, again…

February 13th, 2012

Today President Obama released his budget request for FY 2013. The request for the U.S. Department of Education is $69.8 billion. Most programs – including funds to support local school district with the excess cost of special education (IDEA, Part B) are funded at the same level as the previous year (FY2012).

So what does this mean for special education? It means that President Obama (presumably based on the recommendation of his Education Secretary, Arne Duncan) feels that IDEA doesn’t deserve the amount of federal funding promised to it in IDEA.

The IDEA authorized federal funding in the amount of 40% of the excess cost of special education, based on the Annual Per Pupil Expenditure or APPE. During his campaign, Obama pledged to support “full funding” for IDEA. He put it this way:

Fully Funding the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act: Barack Obama has been a strong and consistent advocate for fully funding the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Congress promised to shoulder 40 percent of each state’s “excess cost” of educating children with disabilities, but it has never lived up to this obligation. Currently, the federal government provides less than half of the promised funding (17 percent). Children are being shortchanged, and their parents are forced to fight with cash-strapped school districts to get the free and appropriate education the IDEA promises their children. Fully funding IDEA will provide students with disabilities the public education they have a right to, and school districts will be able to provide services without cutting into their general education budgets. In addition to fully funding IDEA, Barack Obama and Joe Biden will ensure effective implementation and enforcement of the Act.”

Source: Barack Obama and Joe Biden’s Plan To Empower Americans With Disabilities

Yet the President’s FY2013 budget request seeks an IDEA Part B funding level that will provide approximately 16% of the excess cost – not 40%. The budget request estimates that this would provide $1,72 per child for an estimated 6.6 million students with disabilities.

Find out how much your state will (or won’t) get in 2013 here. (PDF)

Bottom Line

Advocates for full funding of IDEA should give up on President Obama. It is clear that his administration cares more about competitive initiatives like Race to the Top than keeping a promise to fully fund IDEA.

So, lets get ready to hear continued criticism about the cost of special education to local school districts.

No hope, no change.


Grants to States
State or Other Area 2011 Actual 2012 Estimate 2013 Estimate Change from 2012 Estimate
Alabama 179,981,063 181,561,826 181,566,991 5,165
Alaska 36,063,773 36,471,208 36,472,320 1,112
Arizona 183,462,799 188,005,122 188,010,939 5,817
Arkansas 111,004,304 111,979,248 111,982,511 3,263
California 1,213,998,591 1,224,661,067 1,224,697,480 36,413
Colorado 152,891,940 154,234,781 154,239,478 4,697
Connecticut 131,612,076 132,768,017 132,771,675 3,658
Delaware 33,614,205 34,446,453 34,447,519 1,066
District of Columbia 16,901,322 17,319,779 17,320,315 536
Florida 625,657,364 631,152,474 631,170,487 18,013
Georgia 322,524,945 328,077,842 328,087,956 10,114
Hawaii 39,504,872 39,851,841 39,853,020 1,179
Idaho 54,740,479 55,221,261 55,222,921 1,660
Illinois 501,248,821 505,651,259 505,665,544 14,285
Indiana 255,333,586 257,576,165 257,583,335 7,170
Iowa 120,849,314 121,910,726 121,914,069 3,343
Kansas 105,763,719 106,692,635 106,695,678 3,043
Kentucky 156,513,462 157,888,110 157,892,564 4,454
Louisiana 187,317,380 188,962,577 188,968,227 5,650
Maine 54,165,727 54,641,461 54,642,959 1,498
Maryland 198,176,263 199,916,833 199,922,464 5,631
Massachusetts 280,997,908 283,465,895 283,473,669 7,774
Michigan 396,402,364 399,883,942 399,895,690 11,748
Minnesota 187,882,322 189,532,481 189,537,810 5,329
Mississippi 118,935,556 119,980,160 119,983,708 3,548
Missouri 224,855,045 226,829,933 226,836,168 6,235
Montana 36,814,020 37,221,455 37,222,567 1,112
Nebraska 73,914,997 74,564,188 74,566,233 2,045
Nevada 68,994,755 70,702,984 70,705,172 2,188
New Hampshire 46,976,599 47,389,192 47,390,494 1,302
New Jersey 357,803,082 360,945,645 360,955,543 9,898
New Mexico 90,213,359 91,005,697 91,008,220 2,523
New York 751,403,381 758,002,911 758,023,986 21,075
North Carolina 323,238,888 326,077,875 326,087,594 9,719
North Dakota 27,294,331 27,970,106 27,970,971 865
Ohio 433,153,992 436,958,357 436,971,107 12,750
Oklahoma 146,388,454 147,674,175 147,678,405 4,230
Oregon 127,639,189 128,760,236 128,763,928 3,692
Pennsylvania 422,715,133 426,427,814 426,440,201 12,387
Rhode Island 43,287,960 43,668,156 43,669,354 1,198
South Carolina 175,288,806 176,828,357 176,833,330 4,973
South Dakota 32,514,649 33,319,673 33,320,704 1,031
Tennessee 234,411,003 236,469,821 236,476,603 6,782
Texas 972,140,502 980,678,753 980,708,315 29,562
Utah 108,500,873 109,453,830 109,457,116 3,286
Vermont 26,316,947 26,968,524 26,969,358 834
Virginia 279,025,194 281,475,855 281,483,895 8,040
Washington 219,029,685 220,953,409 220,959,927 6,518
West Virginia 75,177,002 75,837,277 75,839,357 2,080
Wisconsin 206,053,221 207,862,974 207,868,824 5,850
Wyoming 27,609,085 28,292,653 28,293,528 875
American Samoa 6,297,058 6,358,510 6,297,058 (61,452)
Guam 13,962,402 14,098,659 13,962,402 (136,257)
Northern Mariana Islands 4,785,135 4,831,832 4,785,135 (46,697)
Puerto Rico 112,146,753 114,923,374 114,926,930 3,556
Virgin Islands 8,874,264 8,960,866 8,874,264 (86,602)
Freely Associated States 6,579,306 6,579,306 6,579,306 0
Indian set-aside 92,011,750 92,909,676 92,909,676 0
Other (non-State allocations) 25,000,000 25,000,000 25,000,000 0
Total 11,465,960,975 11,577,855,236 11,577,855,000 (236)

Wisconsin’s Survival Coalition: Standing Up for Kids with Disabilities

February 3rd, 2012

Wisconsin’s 125,000 children with disabilities receiving special education services are very lucky! Why? Because Wisconsin’s Survival Coalition has their back.

The Survival Coalition is a statewide Wisconsin Survival Coalitioncross-disability coalition comprised of more than 40 state and local organizations and groups. The Coalition focuses on changing and improving policies and practices that support people with disabilities of all ages to be full participants in community life.

In December 2011 the Survival Coalition wrote to
Melody Musgrove, Director of the Office of Special Education Programs at the United States Department of Education to express its concerns regarding funding for special education in their state. Their letter is here.

Specifically, the Coalition was concerned about Maintenance of Effort (MOE) by Wisconsin’s local educational agencies – aka school districts, in the wake of state cutbacks to education funding. Despite reduced revenues, districts must continue to provide a free appropriate public education in the least restrictive enviorment.  “The Congressional intent in IDEA related to local MOE is clear: maintain and protect levels of funding for students with disabilities and the LEAs’ abilities to provide FAPE, particularly during difficult fiscal times” the Coalition stated in its letter.

The Coalition asked that the Department of Education:
1) Issue guidance or a Dear Colleague letter reminding SEAs that they are responsible for monitoring LEAs’ MOE obligations annually;
2) Ensure that SEAs monitor LEAs, hold them accountable for meeting their MOE obligations, and publicize when LEAs meet and do not meet MOE – conducted on an annual basis;
3) Do not consider any regulations or interpretations that would allow LEAs not to meet their MOE obligations.

The Coalition also sent a copy of its letter to every member of Congress representing Wisconsin. One member took note. On January 30, 2012, WI Representative Gwen Moore sent a letter to OSEP in support of the concerns raised by the Coalition.

There’s one tiny wrinkle in this otherwise encouraging story. The U.S. Department of Education had already issued an interpretation that allows LEAs to reduce their MOE obligations. It did so back in June 2011 via a letter in response to an inquiry by the National Association of State Directors of Special Education.

So far, our efforts to get this damaging interpretation rescinded have failed, despite many letters to both OSEP and members of Congress.

Obviously we need more Survival Coalitions! Does YOUR state have one? If not, why not?

Let’s double our efforts to demand action from OSEP. Get our Action Alert here. Send letters to your members of Congress in the House and Senate.

ENDNOTE: Wisconsin LEAs, like many others across the nation, reduced local spending on special education (MOE) in 2009 because of the dramatic increase in IDEA federal funding brought about by the Recovery Act. Wisconsin LEAs reduced spending by $20.4 million – none of which needs to be replaced once Recovery Act funds have been expended. Find out what happened in your state.

Can You Say “Sequestration?”

January 31st, 2012

All together now!

Sequestration
(se″kwes-tra´shun)


Sequestration is a fiscal policy procedure adopted by Congress to deal with the federal budget deficit. (Learn more here.)

Sequestration was triggered when the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (aka the Super Committee)  failed to reach an agreement on a ten-year, $ 1.2 trillion deficit reduction bill. It was all part of the debt ceiling agreement that Congress passed in August of 2011.

Under sequestration, education funding will be subject to cuts ranging from 9.1% (in 2013) to 5.5% (in 2021).

For IDEA, this means a reduction of $$1,053,600,000 in 2013. Other education programs also will get hit hard…Title I will lose $1.1 billion,  $590 million for Head Start — both of these programs serve students with disabilities in addition to IDEA.

A $1.1 billion reduction in IDEA federal funds in 2013 will put the federal contribution toward the cost of special education back to its 2005 level.

This sharp decline in IDEA federal funding will force school districts to either reduce services beyond what is needed to provide a free appropriate public education to students with disabilities or supplement the shortfall with local funds—something unlikely to happen given continuing effects of the recession and the “lag time” between economic recovery in general and the effects, particularly in revenue, felt by state and local governments.

Learn more:

FAQ: Sequestration and IDEA
State-by-state Sequestration Calculator

NCD urged to support recission of OSEP LEA MOE guidance

December 9th, 2011

Public comment to the National Council on Disability

December 8, 2011

Submitted by Candace Cortiella, Director, The Advocacy Institute and
Kathleen B. Boundy, Co-director of the Center for Law and Education

How IDEA Federal Funding Anomalies and Policy Shifts
Threaten FAPE for Students with Disabilities

The delivery of a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to the nation’s 5.8 million school-age students with disabilities is being seriously threatened by a series of unrelated events about to converge. Specifically, these are (1) the long-term consequences of the unprecedented one-time spike in IDEA federal appropriations caused by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), (2) the sequestration triggered by the failure of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to develop a plan for deficit reduction requiring  $1.2 trillion in automatic across-the-board budget cuts to go into effect starting in January 2013, and (3) a new and legally flawed interpretation  of the IDEA requirement governing local maintenance of effort (MOE)  reflected in informal guidance issued by the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) at the U.S. Department of Education in June 2011.

1. Long-term consequences of the unprecedented one-time spike in IDEA federal appropriations caused by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA)

Despite continued advocacy for additional federal funding for local educational agencies (LEAs) in the annual federal budget process, appropriations for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act remain at about half of the authorized amount (i.e., 40% of the annual per pupil expenditure or APPE)(see chart below). However, the amount of annual federal appropriations for IDEA has never decreased from one year to the next.

However, the ARRA infused $11.3 billion in additional IDEA federal funding in 2009, essentially doubling that year’s federal funds to LEAs. While well-intended, this one-time spike in IDEA federal funding has important long-term consequences. Among them:

  • The increase in IDEA funding in 2009 triggered a little-used provision in IDEA that allows LEAs to reduce their local and state funds spent on special education by up to 50% of the amount of any increase in federal funds from one year to the next. According to data submitted to the U.S. Dept. of Education in response to a new data collection instituted after ARRA, LEAs reduced local spending on special education under this IDEA provision by $1.5 billion (see state-by-state summary). LEAs that reduced their level of expenditure on special education under this exception to the local ‘maintenance of effort’ rule, can legally remain at the reduced level in subsequent years  so long as they are able to provide FAPE to their eligible children with disabilities.   As illustrated in “Understanding the Impact of Recovery Act Funds, Annual Federal Funds and IDEA Provisions Over Time”  an LEA that took full advantage of the IDEA 50% rule in 2009 will end up spending less on special education in subsequent years than it had in the fiscal year prior to the ARRA-IDEA windfall.
  • Even for LEAs that did not reduce local spending in 2009 (either by choice or because they were not eligible to do so), the drop in available Federal funds (and in some cases State funds, if waivers have been granted by ED) is being felt. Some LEAs used ARRA funds to hire extra staff, that now must be let go. This “funding cliff” will be felt more severely than anticipated when ARRA was enacted since IDEA funding has not increased in subsequent years (2010, 2011), and will most likely remain level or decline slightly in 2012.

2. Sequestration triggered by the failure of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to develop a plan for deficit reduction requiring  $1.2 trillion in automatic across-the-board budget cuts to go into effect starting in January 2013.

Cuts to the federal budget required by sequestration will have a dramatic impact on education funding. The NEA has estimated that the reduction to IDEA in 2013 will be approximately $900 million. (Funding for Title I will be cut by $1.1 billion. Some 2.5 million IDEA-eligible students also receive services under Title I programs.) (See NEA’s impact projections here.)

The sharp decline in IDEA federal funding anticipated to be brought about by sequestration will force LEAs to either reduce services beyond what is needed to provide FAPE to students with disabilities or supplement the shortfall with local funds—something unlikely to happen given continuing effects of the recession and the “lag time” between economic recovery in general and the effects, particularly in revenue, felt by state and local governments.

Already LEAs are feeling the pinch of reductions to state funding for education, as evidenced by a December 1, 2011 letter to OSEP by the Survival Coalition of Wisconsin Disability Organizations.

3. Potentially untenable consequences from legally flawed interpretation of  the local maintenance of effort (MOE) provisions of IDEA  in informal guidance issued by the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP).

Under IDEA’s local maintenance of effort (MOE) requirement each LEA must spend at least as much from local and state funds in the current year as it spent on special education costs in the preceding year unless the LEA can demonstrate that the reduction is spending is attributable to  one of  two types of circumstances specified in the law.  One type includes, e.g., when a senior, highly paid special educator retires and is replaced by a qualified but younger, lower salaried teacher; the other type is as in the case of the ARRA funds, when an increase in federal funding  triggers the ‘up to 50% rule’(described above.  Only when a school district can demonstrate that its reduced level of local expenditures is attributable to either of these two types of exceptions may the LEA lawfully reduce its local MOE. When an LEA reduces it local level of MOE per one of the limited exceptions, its MOE level remains at the reduced level in subsequent years (unless it is voluntarily increased by the LEA). State educational agencies (SEAs) are required to monitor annually their LEAs’ MOE. An LEA that fails to maintain MOE consistent with IDEA puts in jeopardy its eligibility for future IDEA federal funding. (See MOE Basics for more information.)

However, in a June 16, 2011, response to an inquiry from the National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE), the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), U.S. Department of Education (USED), issued a policy interpretation purportedly about the local MOE of an LEA that failed to maintain its level of special education expenditures from local and state funds and could not justify a reduction attributable to either type of exception expressly set forth in IDEA, i.e., an LEA that as described, was in violation of its local MOE mandate and should rightfully be subject to review by the SEA for failing to meet the critieria for eligibility for Part B funds under IDEA.

USED in its response notes the IDEA does not contain a specific provision addressing this circumstance and states “…the Department must rely on the plain language of the statute and regulation…which provide that an LEA may not reduce its level of expenditures…below the level of those expenditures for the preceding fiscal year.” The letter continues, “It [the LEA] is not obligated to expend at least the amount it expended in the last fiscal year for which it met the maintenance of effort requirement. In other words, each year’s LEA maintenance of effort obligation is based on the amount expended in the immediate prior fiscal year.”

An LEA that fails to meet the MOE requirement is only required to expend from local and state funds the amount it expended in the immediate prior fiscal year. For example, if an LEA expended $650,000 from local and state funds in FY 2009 and only $600,000 in FY 2010 (without meeting any of the provisions for an allowable reduction) it failed the MOE requirement by $50,000.

In a detailed letter-memorandum, the Center for Law and Education concludes the USED guidance is “inconsistent with the legislative history of P.L. 94-142 and the local MOE statutory provision, and is contrary to basic tenets of statutory construction and contract law,” adding that “Given the current economic burden on school districts, OSEP’s flawed interpretation is especially inopportune; it can be anticipated that LEAs will transgress the statutory prohibition against reducing their local MOE outside of the expressly authorized exceptions (§613(a)(2)(A)(iii)) as a means of lowering their MOE in subsequent fiscal years resulting in further harm to the education of the nation’s 5.8 million children with disabilities in need of special education.”

The June 16, 2011 informal guidance from USED has spawned an avalanche of letters to both OSEP and members of Congress. A compilation of these communications is available here.

Taken individually, any one of these events poses a serious threat to LEAs providing meaningful FAPE for our nation’s special education students. Taken together, they seem destined to converge to form the single most important issue facing special education today.

However, one of these issues is certainly within all our capacity to rectify.

We ask the National Council on Disability to use its proven leadership to seek USED’s recission of the flawed interpretation of the  informal guidance.  We ask you to join us in communicating our shared concerns to USED and taking such additional steps as NCD is prepared to take, to resolve this serious matter.

We appreciate the opportunity to provide NCD with these comments.

Download this document.

IDEA Gets $129 Million Haircut in Continuing Resolution

October 29th, 2011

As in almost all recent years, the U.S. Congress has again failed to accomplish its only annual responsibility: passing a series of 13 appropriations bills to keep federal departments and agencies operating. So, in order to keep the government running (remember all of those shut-down threats?) Congress uses a vehicle known as a “continuing resolution” or “CR,” a temporary appropriations act. The Congress has passed two CRs since federal fiscal 2012 began on October 1, 2011.

A funny thing happened in the last CR (P.L. 112-36), that funds the government through November 18, 2011. Its HR 112-36 and it contains a 1.503 percent across-the-board cut for all programs (unless otherwise exempted).

As pointed out in a letter to Congress from the Committee on Education Funding:

Since most education programs are forward funded, and thus states and school districts won’t receive their FY 12 allocation of funds until July 2012, this 1.5 percent cut appeared to have little impact on education programs at this time.

However, Section 115 of the CR states, “During the period covered by this Act, discretionary amounts appropriated for fiscal year 2012 that were provided in advance by appropriations Acts shall be available in the amounts provided in such Acts, reduced by the percentage in section 101(b).”

Because the previous year’s FY 11 CR provided advanced appropriations for four education programs that became available on October 1, 2011, the Department of Education and the Office of Management and Budget have interpreted this language such that funds from the FY 11 advanced appropriations that were allocated to states in October were cut by 1.503%. This resulted in a sudden and immediate loss of $329 million in 2011-12 school-year funds with little advance notice to states and schools.

The four programs affected and the cut to each are:

• Title I grants to LEAs = $163 million
• Title II Teacher Quality State Grants = $25 million
IDEA Section 611 grants to states = $129 million
• Career and Technical Education State grants = $12 million

These unanticipated, and we believe unintended cuts, come on top of education cuts that were included in the FY 11 CR. As you know all education programs, including these four, were cut by 0.2% below FY 10 levels. In addition, Title II was cut by a total of $480 million (-16.3%) and Career and Technical Education was cut by $140 million (-11%).

The Department of Education has stated that the 1.5% cut is a full-year cut in the advanced appropriated funds available for the 2011-12 school year and would not be restored even if the final FY 12 appropriations bill level funds any of these programs at their FY 11 level.

These new cuts, which were completely unanticipated by states and schools, will cause further undesirable reductions in services for students at a time when states, schools and students are literally reeling from unprecedented and harmful state and local budget cuts.

Read the full letter here.

IDEA Money Watch urges you to contact your Member of the U.S. Congress and your two U.S. Senators to express your concern for this indiscriminate reduction to IDEA federal funding. This reduction is particularly acute given the recent informal guidance put out by US ED offering a new interpretation of IDEA’s maintenance of effort (MOE) requirements and the $1.4 billion MOE reductions taken by school districts in 2009 due to the IDEA Recovery Act funds, which are now gone!

National Coalition of Parent Centers issues Action Alert on new MOE guidance

October 2nd, 2011

In late September, the National Coalition of Parent Centers issued the following Action Alert to the network of federally-funded Parent Training and Information Centers and Community Parent Resource Centers regarding the recent guidance issued by the U.S. Department of Education regarding the maintenance of effort requirement of local school districts.

Important Action Alert

National Coalition of Parent Centers

Allowing school districts to violate maintenance of effort (MOE) and reduce their fiscal effort can have a negative impact on children with disabilities and the services they receive.  In addition, State Education Agencies (SEAs) could experience a major financial penalty at a time when many are struggling with funding cuts.

Your help is urgently needed to help prevent reduced services for children with disabilities. Please contact your SEA/Director of Special Education to:

  1. Discuss this decision, its potential negative impact on services for children with disabilities and the possible fiscal consequences for the SEA
  2. Encourage the State Department of Education to provide guidance to school districts so they preserve maintenance of effort

The U.S. Department of Education has issued informal guidance permitting school districts to permanently reduce the amount of their own funding they expend on special education with little, if any, consequences.  This could lead to significant financial burdens being placed on States, reduced special education services, and a loss of free appropriate public education (FAPE) for children with disabilities.  As the U.S. Department of Education may not reverse this decision, your help is needed to contact your SEA to discuss this and encourage them to deter school districts from using this loophole to jeopardize FAPE.

Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), an SEA is financially responsible for a district’s reduction in their fiscal effort.  The U.S. Department of Education would require an SEA to pay back, using non-Federal funds, the full amount of a school district’s violation of their maintenance of effort. An SEA is permitted to recover from a school district any funds required by the U.S. Department of Education.  However, if multiple school districts in a state take advantage of this loophole, the state would be financially responsible to the U.S. Department of Education for the full amount of the reduced fiscal effort.

Background

In June 2011 the U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs issued informal guidance in response to a request from the National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE).  This very specific request sought clarification on what happens in the year following an “MOE violation.”  Current law requires school districts to maintain the special education expenditure of their own funds (commonly referred to as maintenance of effort, or MOE) with the following exceptions:

  • High cost staff departure;
  • decreased enrollment of students with disabilities;
  • elimination of a high cost special education program; or
  • termination of long-term costly expenditures.

If a school district reduces special education funding without these exceptions, they have violated MOE. So NASDSE asked what level of special education funding, or “fiscal effort” a school district must maintain in the year following a year in which the district had made the violation.

The Department’s letter states that the school districts can fulfill maintenance of effort requirements by meeting the amount of spending after taking into account the previous year’s reduction.  This means a district can maintain this lower level of funding in subsequent years, permanently reducing what they spend on special education.  This will lead to less spending on children with disabilities overall, and could jeopardize services and FAPE.  Allowing this to take place leaves parents to assert violations of FAPE and reduced services, rather than the U.S. Department of Education and SEAs enforcing this area of law.

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MOE Reductions in 100 Largest School Districts

September 11th, 2011

IDEA Money Watch has analyzed the data submitted by states regarding the reductions taken to local spending on special education – called ‘maintenance of effort or MOE – in the nation’s 100 largest school districts.

In 2008-2009, these 100 districts educated 1,424,053 students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) - that’s 24.2 percent of the nation’s special education students. On average, 12.8 percent of the student enrollment in these districts are students with IEPs. So, while we know the MOE reduction totals by state, it was important to look at how these 100 districts handled the enormous influx of IDEA federal funds sent to them by the Recovery Act in 2009.

As we have reported, the IDEA Part B funds in the Recovery Act triggered a provision in IDEA that allows local school districts to reduce the amount of local funds being spent on special education by up to 50% of an increase in federal funds, and to keep local spending at the new, lower level for each succeeding year. However, a district’s ability to take this reduction was dependent upon the “rating” it had received from it’s state dept. of education. (Many thought this was wrong, as we reported here.)

This annual “rating” is based on how the district is implementing the basic requirements of the IDEA – things like doing evaluations in a timely manner, completing IEPs for children transitioning from Part C to Part B, resolving disputes filed by parents. The ratings don’t take into account the performance of students with disabilities in the district – things like graduation rate, dropout rate, performance on state assessments. (We wrote about this issue many months ago in Closer Look: How States Determine Local District Performance.)

Our analysis of the MOE reductions taken in the nation’s 100 largest school districts turned up some interesting facts.

  • Half (50) of the 100 largest districts were not eligible to take a reduction in local spending (MOE) because they did not receive a “meets requirement” rating from their state on basic IDEA implementation. Together, these 50 districts educate 675,727 students with disabilities – or 11.5 percent of the nation’s special education students.
  • Of the 50 districts eligible to reduce local spending up to 50 percent of the increase in federal funds they received in 2009:
    • 22 (44 percent) took no reduction;
    • 15 (28 percent) took the full allowable reduction, impacting 241,675 special education students;
    • 13 took reductions ranging from 3 percent to 96 percent of the allowable reduction, impacting 212,753 special education students.
  • The reductions taken totaled $358.2 million (25 percent of total reductions nationwide) and impacted 454,428 special education students. (As we illustrate here, districts that took the full allowable reduction in 2009 end up spending less on special education after 3 years than if they never received the extra funds, since federal funding has not increased in the years following 2009.)

BOTTOM LINE

The total reductions taken in the nation’s 100 largest districts are substantially less than what could have been moved out of special education spending if all of the districts had been eligible to use the IDEA provision. The “rating” system – flawed as we feel it is – kept a significant amount of local funds from being moved out of special education, never to be replaced.

However, the new informal guidance released by USED in June 2011 now allows districts – regardless of their implementation of the most basic requirements of IDEA – to unilaterally reduce local spending on special education outside of the allowable conditions in IDEA. The reduction leaves the state dept. of education on the hook to repay the federal government an amount equal to the district’s reduction for the year the reduction was taken. According to USED, the district’s new lower level of spending – despite being arrived at illegally – becomes the new level required for succeeding years.

As we set forth in our Information Alert, this new guidance is a game changer for the ‘maintenance of effort’ precept of the IDEA. As evidenced by our analysis of big districts – half of them are failing to implement the basics of IDEA provisions. Now, the new OSEP guidance lets districts change their MOE by violating it!


More …

MOE reductions in 100 largest school districts

MOE reduction totals by state

MOE reductions in all LEAs in every state

UPDATE ON INFORMATION ALERT :: USED’s MOE guidance undermines rights of students with disabilities

August 29th, 2011

UPDATE TO THIS ALERT: On April 4, 2012, the U.S. Dept. of Education issued a letter to the Center for Law and Education agreeing with the legal interpretation put forward its letter of August 17, 2011. U.S. ED has withdrawn the letter to Dr. East issued in June 2011. Read the update and letter here.

U.S. Department of Education issues game changing guidance on Maintenance of Effort for local school districts

On June 16, 2011, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) issued new “informal guidance” regarding the “maintenance of effort” requirement (see below) of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

BACKGROUND :: The IDEA’s MOE requirement is designed to ensure that local spending on special education is not routinely raised and lowered at the discretion of a local school district. As a condition of receiving IDEA Part B funds, districts must assure that they will meet this so-called local MOE requirement. To ensure that all students with disabilities receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE), it is critical that local spending remains stable in order to protect those student rights.

The IDEA does, however, recognize that there are legitimate reasons why a local district may have a reduced level of expenditures for special education from one year to the next.  The IDEA sets forth the two types of lawful exceptions that a district must be able to demonstrate (e.g., senior highly paid special educator retires and is replaced by a qualified but younger, lower salaried teacher; or there is an increase in federal funding to the school district) to justify the reduction in local spending on special education. Only when a school district can demonstrate that its reduced level of local expenditures is attributable to either of these two types of exceptions to the local MOE rule will the district’s MOE level be reduced consistent with IDEA. The district’s level of spending then remains at that reduced level unless and until the district chooses to increase its special education expenditures.

Now, according to new informal guidance from OSEP, a local school district (LEA) that violates IDEA because it does not come within one of the two types of authorized exceptions to reduce its MOE obligation is, nonetheless, allowed to continue spending at the “new” reduced level in future years. This interpretation is wrong and inconsistent with IDEA (Center for Law and Education, August 2011).

OSEP misreads the expressly limiting MOE provision granting only local school districts acting within the law (their reduction in local special education spending met one of the two types of recognized statutory exceptions) to use that reduced level of local expenditures as its new basis for MOE, to allow ANY district that has reduced its local expenditure for special education in violation of IDEA (it did not meet one of the two types of authorized exceptions) to benefit from its violation and to rely upon and use the unlawfully reduced MOE indefinitely. OSEP’s interpretation undermines current law and creates a disincentive for local school districts to comply with the MOE requirements of IDEA, places a significant burden on the SEA which has ultimate responsibility for providing FAPE to all eligible children in need of special education and seriously jeopardizes the right to special education programming and related services to the nation’s 5.9 million students with disabilities.

OSEP’s misinterpretation of IDEA creates a major loophole for districts, allowing them to purposefully choose not to comply with the local MOE standard and reduce at will their level of effort outside of the allowable exceptions expressly set forth in IDEA. Furthermore, districts with a track record of poor implementation of IDEA’s basic requirements—such as timely evaluations, effective transition planning and efficient resolution of disputes—are treated the same as districts with satisfactory IDEA implementation.

Allowed to stand, OSEP’s new guidance undermines the MOE provision of IDEA, permitting districts that do not adhere to MOE to continue to receive substantial federal funds with impunity. Offending districts could also continue to make reductions to MOE as allowed by IDEA, reducing even further their level of spending in succeeding years.

If you would like to help get this guidance corrected, please contact us.

More information

Letters regarding this issue:

Maintenance of Effort (MOE)

The term “Maintenance of Effort,” often shortened to “MOE,” refers to the requirement found in many federally funded grant programs (e.g., Title I, IDEA, Voc Ed) that State Educational Agencies (SEA) and Local Educational Agencies (LEA)—generally known as school districts—each maintain the same level of state and local funding from year to year as a condition of receiving federal funding. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) has very specific rules regarding MOE for both SEAs and LEAs

There are provisions in IDEA to allow an LEA to decrease its MOE from one fiscal year to the next. Outside of these provisions, IDEA requires that LEAs expend the same amount of local / state funding for special education and related services as it expended in the previous fiscal year.

Failure to meet MOE requirements may result in the LEA losing eligibility to receive its annual IDEA federal funding and requiring an LEA to repay funds, using a non-federal source, to the SEA, which is required to send funds to the US Department of Education.

A related provision, the “Supplement Not Supplant” (S/NS) requirement, is intended to ensure that services provided with federal funds are in addition to, and do not replace or supplant, services that students would otherwise be provided through local or state funding.