Show Us the Waivers!

We’ve learned that States have begun to submit requests to the U.S. Dept. of Education (USED) for waivers to reduce state financial support toward the excess costs of special education to local school districts. According to information obtained from the USED, the states of Kansas and Iowa have requested waivers and gained approval. The state of South Carolina has made a request with no decision so far.

Maintenance of state financial support – or MOE – is a requirement of IDEA – one of the conditions for States to receive federal IDEA funds. However, the IDEA gives the Secretary of Education the authority to waive the waive the MOE requirement due to exceptional or uncontrollable circumstances. Requests must be made based on “exceptional or uncontrollable circumstances such as a natural disaster or a precipitous and unforeseen decline in the financial resources of the State” says IDEA. (Text of statute here.)

IDEA Money Watch partner, the Center for Law and Education, submitted a request for information to USED asking for the following:

– All requests for a waiver of the “Maintenance of State Financial Support” requirement submitted by any State during FY 2010 pursuant to 20 U.S.C. §1412(a)(18)(C) and 34 C.F.R. § 300.163(c). Under these provisions a State may seek a waiver of the requirement of 20 U.S.C. § 1412(a)(18)(A) not to reduce the amount of State financial support for special education and related services for eligible children under IDEA Part B below the amount of that support for the preceding fiscal year.

– All responses of the U.S. Department of Education to each request for such a waiver submitted by any State. The Secretary may waive the “Maintenance of State Financial Support” requirement for a State, for 1 fiscal year at a time, if the Secretary determines that granting a waiver would be equitable due to exceptional or uncontrollable circumstances. 20 U.S.C. §1412(a)(18)(C)(i).

We’re still waiting for information from USED. And we’re disappointed in the federal government’s lack of transparency regarding this important issue. Seems like such information should be released to the public – both by the state requesting the waiver and by USED.

The Bottom Line

We suspect that this is only the beginning of these requests. According to a new report from the National Governors Association, “States face significant fiscal challenges going forward with the federal Recovery Act funds ending, revenues not expected to be returning to pre-recession levels, and higher demands for many services like health and education.”

As we explained in our Budget Dust and Double Trouble blog, there’s nothing coming down the pike to help local districts, many of whom have reduced their local spending on special education because of IDEA Recovery Act funds. Now, if States reduce their support of special education costs, maybe we’re headed for Triple Trouble!

Find out about how your state funds special education! Get Financing Special Education: State Funding Formulas, a comprehensive review of state special education funding formulas.

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