Faced with the possibility of more funding cuts, a new survey finds special educators across the country are worried.
Already, 86 percent of special education directors say they are seeing increased caseloads, while most also report that services are less available for students with disabilities, according to a survey of more than 300 administrators conducted by the Council for Exceptional Children, a national group that lobbies on behalf of special educators.
And the situation may soon get worse. Under a budget deal last year, federal funding for special education and many other initiatives is expected to face an across-the-board cut of 8 percent starting in January 2013 under a process known as sequestration.
If the cuts go through as expected, the vast majority of special education administrators surveyed indicated that caseloads would increase further, funding for technology and other resources would decline and there would be greater strain on the availability of services for students.
“They are overwhelmed,” said CEC’s Lindsay Jones about the administrators surveyed. “Inevitably you are doing more with less and they are feeling the inherent stress with that and now they’re facing another 8 percent cut.”
The looming cuts come as school districts continue to feel the effects of deep declines in 2011 after an influx of stimulus spending came to a halt, Jones said.
If sequestration does go through as planned, CEC estimates that federal spending on special education will fall to 14.5 percent, the lowest rate seen since 2001. That’s significantly less than the full funding commitment of 40 percent that Congress made when the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act was enacted in 1975.
The impact on students would be dramatic, Jones said, because it would almost certainty lead to job cuts and fewer personnel in the classroom.