Feds Allow States To Lower Special Education Funding
Federal education officials say they will allow two states to reduce spending on special education, but denied a similar request from a third state, in letters sent last week.
Legally, states are not allowed to reduce funding for special education from one year to the next. But the U.S. Department of Education can grant one-year waivers allowing a state to lower its funding for students with disabilities if there are “exceptional or uncontrollable circumstances.”
Last week the department approved waiver requests from Alabama and New Jersey, allowing the states to trim their special education spending by $9.2 million and $25.6 million, respectively. Meanwhile, a waiver request from Oregon was denied.
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South Carolina and Iowa are currently awaiting decisions on their waiver requests.
The requests are part of pattern in recent years, as states have struggled to balance their budgets. Last year the Department of Education approved waivers allowing West Virginia, Iowa and Kansas to reduce special education funding for one year.
States risk losing federal special education funds if they lower their contribution to the program without a waiver.
Even when waivers are granted, states are still obligated to ensure that children with disabilities are provided a free and appropriate education, wrote Alexa Posny, the Department of Education’s assistant secretary for special education and rehabilitative services, in her correspondence to the states.
What’s more, Posny said that states qualifying for waivers may be subject to increased scrutiny to ensure that proper services are being provided to students with disabilities.