Gov. Corbett’s Special Education Proposal Exploits a Broken System

(February 26, 2013) For more than two decades the state has distributed special education funding based on an outdated calculation that 16 percent of the students in each school district receives special education services.

In reality, some districts serve nearly twice that percentage and some serve half. Calculating a more accurate number of special education students in each district and then directing funding based on those calculations is a basic, commonly accepted budgeting concept. Yet the Corbett administration and the General Assembly have now twice failed to pass recent legislation that would implement such a system, fixing the current broken system and providing accuracy and accountability for special education funding.

We hope our legislators will finally address this problem now that special education funding legislation has been re-introduced in the General Assembly.

In the meantime, though, the governor’s current budget proposal exacerbates the inequities of the broken system. His proposal would cut special education funding for all 43 of Allegheny County’s school districts by taking money from the existing special education budget — which has been flat-funded for five years, despite inflating service costs — and put it into the Contingency Fund.

The Contingency Fund is a pot of statewide money — typically 1 percent of the state’s special education budget — that is available for school districts that have an exceptionally high-need student or students.

Increasing the amount of money in the Contingency Fund — which has historically been higher than 1 percent– is a good idea. Taking that money out of a depleted special education budget is not.

Education Law Center

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