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Special Education Cuts Offer Cautionary Tale

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(Updated: June 24, 2011 at 10:34 PM CST)

South Carolina officials cut millions from the state’s special education budget over the last two years without federal approval. Now, they must restore the money or risk losing significant funding from Washington.

Under federal law, states cannot decrease funding for special education from one year to the next. But in cases of “exceptional or uncontrollable circumstances” the U.S. Department of Education can grant one-year waivers.

South Carolina is one of seven states that requested waivers in recent years on the heels of the financial crisis, citing budget shortfalls. A 2009 waiver request from the state was approved and a request last year was partially successful.

Now, however, federal officials are saying enough is enough. In a recent letter to South Carolina leaders, the U.S. Department of Education denied a request to cut spending on students with disabilities this year by more than $75 million.

“In short, the state has offered no fiscal or practical reason why the state did not — and could not now — make available an additional $75,343,070 for special education,” wrote Alexa Posny, assistant secretary for special education and rehabilitative services at the Education Department.

What’s more, Posny said South Carolina must restore $111.5 million that was cut over the last two years while waivers were under consideration or risk losing just as much in federal funding.

Iowa is facing a similar situation. In a separate letter this week, Posny denied that state’s waiver request to cut $4 million for 2011 and said no to an amended request from 2010 through which Iowa officials sought to trim spending by $1.5 million.

Earlier this year, Posny turned down a request from Oregon, while approving waivers for Alabama and New Jersey.

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Comments (4 Responses)

  1. SusanFordKeller says:

    It’s about time the US Dept of Ed stepped up. Kids with disabilities are not disposable. You can’t keep taking services away when most of these kids weren’t getting what they needed before the waivers were granted.

  2. soccer mom says:

    My husband and I are raising our 15-year old Grandson who has ADHD. He is in an IU8 class as a sophmore in high school. His teacher is SUPPOSED to be trained to work with ALL Special Education students. However, she has shown many times over that she has NO idea how to work with an ADHD child. The point I am trying to make is this: What would happen if Special Education funding were to be cut here in Pennsylvania? The government simply cannot go on shoving our children under the rug as if they don’t exist.

  3. slapfish says:

    I just don’t understand the thinking behind any cuts to education, especially special ed. States are cutting education budgets while feds are giving out millions in adult workforce training grants to try to address our lacking in math and science skills…good grief

  4. disabilitiesrightsadvocate says:

    If implemented in the right ways, special education could vastly improve the capabilities of students with disabilities, and essentially afford them with a near limitless future. School districts churn more revenue through athletics than in ensuring that students, particularly ones with disabilities, have the tools they need to have a promising and longlasting outcome. I cringe to think that a district would eliminate any teaching positions, especially within special education and supports. While I understand the idea of reducing costs for school districts, there are so many other more viable resources to do so, instead of punishing the students who need the education the most.

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