Feds, State Make Nice Over Special Ed Dispute
A long-running disagreement over special education funding is coming to a close.
The U.S. Department of Education said it has reached a settlement with education officials in South Carolina to resolve a clash over the state’s special education budget dating back to 2010.
Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, states are required to spend at least as much money each year on special education as they did the year prior. Those that do not meet or exceed that threshold may face a reduction in federal funding.
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The mandate known as “maintenance of effort” became contentious, however, during the recession when state lawmakers struggled to deal with budget shortfalls and some states, including South Carolina, failed to adequately fund special education.
Federal officials denied South Carolina more than $51 million in funding because of shortfalls in its special education obligations during fiscal year 2010. The state was also facing possible penalties over questionable funding levels during fiscal years 2011, 2012 and 2013, the Education Department said.
Now, however, state and federal officials have reached a settlement to bring litigation over the issue to a close.
Under the agreement reached late last month, South Carolina will allocate an additional $51 million for special education to be used over the next four years above and beyond the state’s regular annual commitments for the program. The federal agency said it will not dock the state further for shortfalls between 2010 and 2013.
“This settlement is a victory for children with disabilities in South Carolina,” said Sue Swenson, acting assistant secretary for the Education Department’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services. “Our administration is committed to ensuring that schools have the resources they need to provide necessary supports and services to children with disabilities to ensure that they can leave school ready for college and career. We look forward to working with the South Carolina Department of Education to fully and effectively implement the terms of this agreement.”