Archive for the ‘Balance Sheet’ Category

Special Education gets small increase in FY 2020 funding bill.

Tuesday, December 17th, 2019

The U.S. Congress passed and the President signed an appropriations bill (called the Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020) to fund several federal agencies through FY 2020, which ends September 30, 2020.

Programs funded under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) are funded as follows:

Grants to States:

  • Grants to states for children with disabilities ages 3-21 (Part B, Section 611) $12.764 billion – an increase of $400 million over FY 2019 or 3.2%.
  • Grants to states for children with disabilities ages 3-5 (Part B, Section 619) $394 million – an ncrease of $3 million over FY 2019 or .8%.
  • Grants for infants and families (Part C) $477 million – an increase of $7 million over FY 2019 or 1.5%

Part D Support Programs: (All programs are funded at FY 2019 level unless noted)

  • State Personnel Development Grants – $39 million
  • Technical assistance and dissemination – $44 million
  • Special Olympics education programs – $20 million (increase of $2 million or 14%
  • Personnel Preparation – $89.7 million – an increase of $2.5 million or 2.9%
  • Parent Information Centers – $27 million
  • Education technology, media, and materials – $29.5 million – an increase of $1.5 million or 5.3%

TOTAL $13.885 billion – an increase of $417 million or 3.1% over FY 2019.

Some important points to remember regarding the increase given to Grants to states:

  • LEAs – the school districts that will receive the increase in federal funds – are allowed to reduce their special education spending by up to 50% of the increase. (See maintenance of effort for more)
  • The very nominal increase provided – 3.2% over FY 2019 – will not result in a “per child” increase since the number of children being served under IDEA has increased.

See also: National Council on Disability report “Broken Promises: The Underfunding of IDEA”

State-by-State IDEA Funding Gap

Saturday, December 14th, 2019

President’s FY2020 Proposed Budget matches FY2019 Appropriations for Special Education

Tuesday, March 12th, 2019

The President’s budget proposal for FY2020 (Oct. 1, 2019-Sept. 30, 2020) released March 11, 2019 recommends a 10 percent reduction to overall funding for the U.S. Dept. of Education (ED), from $71 billion to $64 billion.

However, the ED budget proposal recommends holding funding for special education at the amounts appropriated by Congress in FY2019.

Specifically, the budget proposal requests:

  • $12,364.4 million for Grants to states
    (To help states pay the additional costs of providing special education and related services to children with disabilities aged 3 through 21 years. While the dollar amount holds level, the per-child amount goes from $1,770 to $1,758 due to an increase in the number of students (ages 3-21) being served under the IDEA, or about 13 percent of the national average per pupil expenditure (APPE). The IDEA authorizes an amount equal to 40 percent of the APPE, an amount known as “full funding”. See how much your state is losing.)
  • $391.1 million for Preschool Grants to states
    (An estimated $506 per child for the approximately 773,600 children with disabilities ages 3 through 5)
  • $470 million for Grants for Infants and Toddlers (to provide high-quality early intervention services to approximately 389,000 infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families.)
  • $225.6 million for National Activities (funds State Personnel Development, Technical Assistance & Dissemination, Personnel Preparation, Parent Information Centers, Educational Technology, Media, and Materials).
    Note: As in the previous year, the budget recommends the elimination of $17.6 million for Special Olympics, which Congress reinstated. This is one of 29 programs recommended for elimination.

The Dept. of Education FY2020 budget is available here.

Watch U.S. Dept. of Ed Secy Betsy DeVos testify in Congress on the proposed budget:

Most LEAs Found MOE Compliant

Friday, February 1st, 2019

The U.S. Dept. of Education has released new data for states on a number of aspects of children with disabilities, as required by IDEA. The new data can be found here.

New this year is a report on the number and percentage of Local Education Agencies (LEAs) – commonly referred to as school districts – that each state reviewed and found to be in compliance with IDEA’s MOE requirements. More about MOE is available here.

The data show LEAs to be compliant in almost all states.

Download this table (PDF)


FY 2019 Appropriations Give Boost to IDEA Funding

Friday, September 14th, 2018

The U.S. Congress has finalized a bill to fund the Defense and Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education departments for Fiscal Year 2019 which begins October 1, 2018.

The bill provides $71.5 billion in funding for the Education Department. Of that, $13.4 billion (18 percent) is designated for IDEA.

IDEA funding breaks down as follows:

  • IDEA Grants to States: $12.4 billion (an increase of $86.5 million over FY18)
  • IDEA Preschool Grants: $391.1 million (an increase of $10 million over FY18)
  • Grants for Infants and Toddlers: $470.0 million (same as FY19)
  • National Activities: $215.2 million (an increase of $6 million, 2.5 million for Technical Assistance &Dissemination and an increase of $3.5 million for Personnel Preparation)

While an increase to IDEA funds for state grants is appreciated, it doesn’t come close to the authorized amount – aka “full funding” – that we reported on recently. View your state’s IDEA funding gap using this interactive map.

IDEA Funding Gains Little in Final FY 2017 Appropriations

Monday, May 1st, 2017

MAY 1, 2017

Federal funding for the IDEA gains little in the budget agreement reached by Congress in late April. The deal should be voted on in early May and will fund the federal government for the balance of FY 2017 (until October 1, 2017).

IDEA funds for Part B Sec. 611 (ages 3-21) goes from $11.9 billion in FY 2016 to $12.0 billion in FY 2017 – an increase of .7 percent.

Meanwhile, the number of students served under this program is increasing steadily – growing from 6,697,938 in 2014-2015 to 6,814,410 in 2015-2016, an increase of 1.7 percent. And keep in mind that IDEA allows local school districts to use up to 50 percent of any increase in IDEA funds to offset local spending, so students could see only half of the increase used for special education services.

IDEA funds for Part B Sec. 619 (ages 3-5) stays constant at $368.2 million.

IDEA funds for Part C (infants and families) also stays constant at $458.6 million. The children served under Part C increased from 350,581 in 2014-2015 to 357,715 in 2015-2016, an increase of 2 percent.

Add’t special education appropriations details are here.

Now we wait for the administration to release its budget request for FY 2018, due sometime in May. The “skinny” budget released in March indicated that IDEA funding would be maintained at its current rate, while the U.S. Dept. of Education faces a substantial overall decrease.


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

Sunday, 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 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


Congressman wants changes to IDEA MOE rules

Monday, 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.


  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.



                              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,


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


    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 
            (2) in subparagraph (B)--
                    (A) in clause (iii)(III), by striking ``or'' at the 
                    (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

Thursday, 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

Thursday, 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

Friday, 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.)


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.


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.


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 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.


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 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

Wednesday, 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

Feds issue guidance on use of IDEA funds for technology

Tuesday, 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

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

Saturday, 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.

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.


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
  • NM Waiver Request for 2009-2010
  • USED Response
  • State Audit Report


Advocate/Activist’s Call to Action!

Wednesday, 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

Wednesday, 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

Thursday, 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
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.)


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

Here’s how: Go to the docket on 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

“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

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

IDEA sequestration cuts

Source: State-by-State IDEA Impact retrieved from

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

Thursday, 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.


Bill summary:

Bill text:

US ED reverses position on maintenance of effort

Wednesday, 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!

Candace Cortiella
Candace at

Kathleen B. Boundy, Esq.
Kboundy at

Obama ignores special ed, again…

Monday, 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)

Can You Say “Sequestration?”

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

All together now!


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

IDEA Gets $129 Million Haircut in Continuing Resolution

Saturday, 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!

State-by-state data on LEA MOE reductions and CEIS use

Sunday, July 17th, 2011

Here you will find the information submitted by state departments of education to the U.S. Dept. of Education regarding reduction to local spending (maintenance of effort or MOE) and use of federal IDEA funds for Coordinated Early Intervening Services (CEIS) for each school district for the 2009 fiscal year. Nationwide, local school districts (LEAs) reduced spending on special education by $1.5 billion in 2009.

This information is important because it indicates if school districts reduced local spending in light of IDEA Recovery Act funds in FY 2009. IDEA does not require that local districts replace these funds when the Recovery funds run out, putting services for students with disabilities at risk.

Get Understanding Table 8 (PDF, 3 pages)

Get state-level Table 8 data (PDF, 3 pages)

Get MOE reductions in the nation’s 100 largest school districts (PDF, 3 pages)

Get LEA Table 8 data by state (PDF) via links below (Total LEA MOE reductions appear after each state)

ALABAMA (AL) ($28.2 million)


ARKANSAS (AR) ($8.6 million)

ARIZONA (AZ) ($27.4 million)

CALIFORNIA (CA) ($336.2 million)

COLORADO (CO) ($6.8 million)

CONNECTICUT (CT) ($18.0 million)



FLORIDA (FL) ($175.2 million)

GEORGIA (GA) ($105.0 million)

HAWAII (HI) ($20.8 million)

IDAHO (ID) ($13.8 million)

ILLINOIS (IL) ($87.9 million)

INDIANA (IN) ($15.1 million)

IOWA (IA) ($52.3 million)

KANSAS (KS) ($7.1 million)

KENTUCKY (KY) ($27.2 million)


MAINE (ME) (0)


MASSACHUSETTS (MA) ($.1 million)

MICHIGAN (MI) ($53.6 million)



MISSOURI (MO) ($56.1 million)


NEBRASKA (NE) ($.2 million)

NEW HAMPSHIRE (NH) ($1.5 million)

NEW JERSEY (NJ) ($40.2 million)

NEW MEXICO (NM) ($5.4 million)

NEW YORK (NY) ($.2 million)

NEVADA (NV) ($5.9 million)

NORTH CAROLINA (NC) ($12.8 million)

NORTH DAKOTA (ND) ($1 million)

OHIO (OH) ($49.6 million)

OKLAHOMA (OK) ($.9 million)

OREGON (OR) ($9.7 million)

PENNSYLVANIA (PA) ( $55.6 million)


SOUTH CAROLINA (SC) ( $.9 million)

SOUTH DAKOTA (SD) ($8.0 million)

TENNESSEE (TN) ($26.8 million)

TEXAS (TX) ($25.4 million)

UTAH (UT) ($6.3 million)


VIRGINIA (VA) ($38.7 million)

WASHINGTON (WA) ($49.1 million)

WEST VIRGINIA (WV) ($11.3 million)

WISCONSIN (WI) ($20.4 million)


IDEA Money Watch responds to “Something Has Got to Change”

Thursday, June 16th, 2011

June 14, 2011

On Tuesday the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) released “Something Has Got to Change: Rethinking Special Education,” a paper that examines special education spending and seeks to offer  practical solutions to “tame out-of-control special education spending while serving special-needs students better.”  AEI also provided a teleconference during which the paper’s author, Nathan Levenson, presented a brief overview and responded to questions.

There’s stuff to like in Levenson’s paper. Mainly, we think special education spending–along with the policies that control it–needs and deserves close examination and dialogue to spur change. Special education can’t continue as the “third rail” of education. This deeply entrenched “hands-off” policy serves neither students nor taxpayers. Meanwhile, we want to ensure that facts presented in such discussions are correct. So here’s a quick review of Levenson’s points that either hit or miss the mark…

LEVENSON: “As a nation, special education spending has risen from 4 percent to 21 percent of total school spending from 1970 to 2005.”

IDEA Money Watch: It’s rather unfair to look at special education spending pre/post the enactment of the federal special education law, now known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The driving purpose of the law was to end the exclusion of students with disabilities from public education. A congressional investigation in 1972, following two landmark court cases (PARC v. Commonwealth of PA and Mills v. Board of Education of District of Columbia) found that of the more than 8 million children with disabilities requiring special education, only 3.9 million were receiving an appropriate education, 1.75 million were receiving no educational serves at all, and 2.5 million were receiving an inappropriate education. A contrast between either the number of students served by special education or the amount of money spent to serve them that reaches back to before enactment of federal legislation is both useless and misleading.

We had to poke around to find the source of the claim that special education accounted for 21 percent of total school spending in 2005. Levenson’s paper references an Education Week blog about a conference on Improving Productivity in Public Education and, specifically, a presentation by Karen Hawley Miles of Education Resource Strategies – none of which tells us the source of the information.

We do know that the U.S. Dept. of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) does not collect data on special education spending per se. Reports issued by NCES on revenues and expenditures for public elementary and secondary education do not break out expenditures for general and special education.

That leaves us reliant on surveys and special studies. One such survey from the Economic Policy Institute, Where Has the Money Been Going (October 2010), relies on data from nine school districts. The EPI report found that the average annual real growth in per-pupil spending from 1996-2005 was 4.5% for special education vs. 2.4% for regular education (Table 10). During that same period, 53% of net new money was spent on academic classroom programs while 41% was spent on special education (Table 11). In 2005, 21% of district spending in the nine districts, on average, went to special education (Table 16). This appears to be the source for the claim in Levenson’s paper. But this is not a national figure, only an average of data from nine districts, ranging from 15% to 23%.

Another source of information on special education expenditures comes from the Special Education Expenditure Project (SEEP).  Funded by the U.S. Dept. of Education, SEEP reports are based on analyses of extensive data for the 1999-2000 school year. The SEEP report, “What are we spending on special education services in the U.S.?“, found that total regular and special education expenditure for educating students with disabilities represents over 21 percent of the 1999-2000 spending on all elementary and secondary educational services in the U.S. The total expenditure to educate the average student with disabilities was an estimated 1.90 times that expended to educate the typical regular education student with no special needs (down from 1985, when it was estimated by Moore et al. (1988) to be 2.28.)

LEVENSON: “The number of students with the more costly severe disabilities is growing fast. The number of students with three of the four most common severe disabilities—health impairments, autism, and developmental delay—are all increasing by double digits each year across the country. The number of students with mild disabilities is also increasing slightly each year. The number of students with moderate disabilities is growing more slowly, but it is still growing.”

IDEA Money Watch: Actually, the number of students ages 6-21 eligible for special education services has declined every year since 2004 – down 4% between 2004 and 2009, according to data collected by the U.S. Dept. of Education. As our chart here indicates, some categories, like specific learning disabilities, which accounts for almost half of all special education students, has declined by 12.4% since 2004.  This is a pretty simple fact to get right. IDEA requires an annual count of students receiving special education; it’s available at

Equally wrong is Levenson’s characterization of “health impairments (OHI), autism, and developmental delay as “severe disabilities.” The category of OHI is made up largely of students with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), particularly since a change to federal regulations in 1999 made ADHD expressly part of the OHI category. Autism – a disability showing explosive growth nationwide – is not necessarily “severe” in all students found eligible in this category. Developmental Delay – added in 1997 – is an optional category available to states only for children through age 9. It allows young children to be served under IDEA without being assigned a specific disability designation. Fifteen states don’t use the Developmental Delay category at all (AR, CA, CO, CT, FL, IN, IA, MT, NJ, NY, OH, OR, SD, TX, and WV). So, the growth in this category is technically not growth at all, but rather a shift in how schools designate children ages 6-9 in some states. Simply put, if this category didn’t exist, students would be assigned to one of the other IDEA disability categories (as they are in those 15 states not using the category).

LEVENSON: “The lackluster results for students with special needs are not from lack of effort; school districts are spending an increasing percentage of their total budget on special education.”

IDEA Money Watch: Let’s not equate spending with effort. As Levenson correctly points out, students with special needs have fared poorly academically even in the best of financial times. Parents often wonder what all that money is providing their student. Sometimes we even speculate that special education costs are overstated by districts because they can use the “federal mandate” argument to defend any amount of spending.

However, by any large-scale measure, students with disabilities are performing poorly despite the enormous amount of funds that schools claim to be spending. For example, on the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) only 38% of students with disabilities were at or above the ‘basic’ level (defined as partial mastery of the knowledge and skills that are fundamental for proficient work at a given grade) in 8th grade reading compared to 79% of students without disabilities (lots more about NAEP and students with disabilities).

Another look at academic performance of students with disabilities is provided by the National Longitudinal Transition Study 2. This large-scale study found that significant numbers of students in all disability categories function far below grade level in reading and math (details here), raising serious questions about how these students can master high school course requirements to earn a regular diploma. The NLTS2 also found that the correlation between grades and academic functioning is nearly zero – indicating that students and parents are being seriously mislead with regard to real academic achievement.

Yet we also know that despite the money supposedly being spent, many students with disabilities aren’t receiving the support and specialized instruction that is needed to ensure their success. This is particularly true in the area of assistive technology (AT). Anecdotal evidence suggests that only 3-5% of students with disabilities have assistive technology written on the IEP despite the IDEA requirement that the need for AT be considered as part of the development of every student’s IEP. This problem is so acute that the U.S. Dept. of Education put funding of AT at the top of its list of suggested ways that district might spend the extra IDEA funds provided by the Recovery Act.

Levenson asserts that ”to raise the achievement of students with special needs, only three things matter—reading, reading, and reading” to which we respond – yes, yes, yes. Reading failure is the reason many students land in special education. Sadly, once there, many remain serious underachievers in this critical skill despite the “specially designed instruction” they are entitled to receive (evidenced by the NLTS2 finding mentioned above).

As Levenson points out, the key elements of reading instruction, as identified by the National Reading Panel, are rarely followed. Worse yet, a 2006 study by the National Council on Teacher Quality found that only 11 out of 72 education schools (15 percent) surveyed were found to actually teach all the components of the science of reading. Bottom line: the majority of teachers aren’t being taught the essential components of reading discovered through millions of dollars in federal research. Yet, as Dr. Louisa Moats pointed out in a 1999 report for the American Federation of Teachers, the difficulty of teaching reading has been underestimated: it is, in fact, rocket science!

LEVENSON: By vesting more responsibility for special needs kids in the hands of general educators, especially content expert educators, schools can save funds while putting kids in front of the best trained teachers.”

IDEA Money Watch: Here again we say yes, yes, yes. We also note that in many ways Skrtic was right when he posited (in 1991) that “the very existence of special education as a field has reduced the motivation of regular education teachers to be innovative, because special education removes from general education the children who might create the need for change.”

Worse yet (and this is a BIGGIE for us!), the academic achievement of students with disabilities plays no role in the monitoring and compliance activities of the U.S. Dept. of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP). To our dismay, we found that the “performance” indicators of the State Performance Plans are not part of the annual determination of a state’s implementation of IDEA, and, in turn, the states don’t consider the performance of students with disabilities in determining the rating of its local school districts. We’ve challenged the department’s legal authority in this area and consider it a significant barrier to raising the academic achievement of students with disabilities. OSEP’s current approach to monitoring ensures a complete focus on paper compliance and ignores academic achievement.

Still, improving teacher effectiveness was also a top recommendation for use of IDEA Recovery Act funds. In its guidance, U.S. ED states “Given that most students with disabilities are in the regular classroom and are taught by general education teachers most of the day, recruiting highly qualified general education teachers and providing ongoing professional development for general classroom teachers to ensure they have the knowledge and skills to teach these students effectively, as well as equipping special education teachers with core academic content knowledge, is essential.” The extent to which IDEA Recovery Act funds have been used to this end is hard to determine.

We remind Levenson that the Highly Qualified Teacher provisions dealing with special educators are found in IDEA, not NCLB. In fact, IDEA requires that special education teachers who teach multiple subjects exclusively to children with disabilities demonstrate competence in all the academic subjects in which they teach. Whether this is happening in practice is another issue, we quickly admit.




While not mentioned in Levenson’s paper, the Recovery Act has pumped $11.3 billion into special education between 2009 and 2011. Intended to improve results for students with disabilities, Recovery Act funds are well on the way to being totally expended – as of June 10, 2011, more than $9 billion has been obligated.

Some districts have used Recovery Act funds to study the efficiencies of special education spending. Others have elected to simply hire additional staff that now must be cut as the Recovery Act funds run out.

Levenson’s descriptions of increased achievement in a few districts clearly show that leaders at the local level can change what’s being done without changes in federal laws. Sadly, few actually take on the challenge.

See also: