Special Education Funding Maintained in Trump Administration Budget Blueprint – Education Week

By Christina Samuels

The “skinny” budget blueprint released by the Trump administration Thursday would maintain current spending levels for special education—about $13 billion, most of which is money sent directly to states.

The budget blueprint is just the beginning of a long process. While this document shows the administration’s priorities, it is Congress that ultimately passes spending legislation. And lawmakers have their own ideas about what programs should be cut, and which should be kept.

But, if these funding amounts were to stay in place, the federal contribution for special education and related services would be about 16 percent of the excess costs of educating a student with a disability, compared to a general education student.

In 1975, when the federal government passed the law that was to become the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Congress authorized paying states up to 40 percent of the excess costs of educating a student with disabilities, based on national per-pupil expenditures. But in the 40-plus years of the law’s existence, the federal government has never gotten close to meeting that goal. The Trump administration is not different from other administrations in that regard.

Source: Special Education Funding Maintained in Trump Administration Budget Blueprint – On Special Education – Education Week

The Wrong and Right Ways to Ensure Equity in IDEA – Education Next

By Paul L. Morgan and George Farkas

Are U.S. schools widely over-identifying children as disabled based on their race or ethnicity? Congress, the U.S. Department of Education, and many scholars think so. They are well-intentioned but wrong.

The best-available empirical studies repeatedly find that the opposite is occurring. White children are much more likely than otherwise similar racial and ethnic minority children to receive special education services in the U.S. Ensuring equity in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) means making sure all children with disabilities are able to access the services to which they have a civil right.

Source: The Wrong and Right Ways to Ensure Equity in IDEA – Education Next : Education Next

Students With ‘504 Plans’ More Likely to Be White, Enrolled in Non-Title I Schools – Education Week

By Christina Samuels

Students receiving accommodations under Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act—a law that predates the Individuals with Disabilities Act and creates a more expansive definition of disability than the IDEA—are more likely to be white, male, and enrolled in a school that is not eligible for Title I funds, according to an analysis of U.S. Department of Education data published in the Aug. 7 edition of the Journal of Disability Policy Studies.

(Note: The abstract of the study, linked above, gives an incorrect summary of the racial breakdown of “504 plan” students. The lead author of the study said in an interview that the abstract will be corrected.)

Students covered under Section 504 could have a variety of disabling conditions, such as cancer, epilepsy, diabetes or mobility impairments. The overall percentage of students who are given accommodations under Section 504 is small, however; about 1 percent of all students, according to the 2009-10 Civil Rights Data Collection.  This compares to about 12 percent of all students who are covered under the IDEA.

via Students With ‘504 Plans’ More Likely to Be White, Enrolled in Non-Title I Schools – On Special Education – Education Week.

Ed. Department Seeks Comments on Special Education Funding Rules – Education Week

By Christina Samuels

Interested parties have until December 2 to offer thoughts on a set of rules proposed by the Education Department that guide how much states and districts must spend on special education–and the department is specifically looking for ideas about how to make this complex set of rules easier to understand and less prone to misinterpretation.

To grasp the proposed rules requires understanding some background.

via Ed. Department Seeks Comments on Special Education Funding Rules – On Special Education – Education Week.

Ed. Dept. Addresses Bullying of Students With Disabilities – Education Week

By Christina Samuels

Severe bullying of a student with disabilities could deny that student’s right to a free, appropriate public education would need to be addressed under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, according to a guidance letter for districts, states and building administrators released today from the U.S. Department of Education.

A student who is not receiving “meaningful educational benefit” because of bullying triggers that provision, but even bullying that is less severe can undermine a student’s ability to meet his or her full potential, said the letter, written by Melody Musgrove, director of the office of special education programs, and Michael Yudin, the acting assistant secretary of the office of special education and rehabilitative services. If a student with a disability is bullying others, school officials should review that student’s individualized education program to see if additional support or changes to the student’s environment are necessary.

 

via Ed. Dept. Addresses Bullying of Students With Disabilities – On Special Education – Education Week.

Ed. Dept. Leaders Say Special Education Offers Lessons for All – Education Week

By Christina Samuels

Washington

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, along with federal leaders who oversee special education, told a conference of special education leaders and parents of students with disabilities that their experiences can help guide a number of national initiatives, including expanded preschool and preparing students for college and work.

The audience was gathered here for the yearly IDEA Leadership Conference. Duncan, repeating the administration’s focus on creating a $75 billion federal investment in state-run preschool, said that preschool can help reduce the number of students enrolled in special education.

via Ed. Dept. Leaders Say Special Education Offers Lessons for All – On Special Education – Education Week.

Education Week: Special Education Office Aims to Revise Monitoring Focus

Student performance, not just procedural compliance, is the goal of a revised reporting system proposed by the federal office of special education programs.

The proposed revisions affect both Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which applies to about 6.5 million youth ages 3 to 21, as well as Part C of the act, which affects about 454,000 children from birth to age 3.

via Special Education Office Aims to Revise Monitoring Focus.

Education Week: Special Education Advocates Release Public Policy Agenda

The Council For Exceptional Children, which represents educators who work with students with disabilities, recently published a list of issues it would like Congress to tackle.

There’s no lack of big-picture action items on this list, including full funding of the Individuals with Disabilities Act. (When IDEA was first passed in 1975, Congress was authorized to spend up to 40 percent of the cost of teaching students with disabilities. But the federal government has never come close, and currently pays around 16.5 percent to the states, a figure expected to drop if sequestration cuts take hold.)

via Special Education Advocates Release Public Policy Agenda.

Education Week: IDEA Sequester Cuts, By The Numbers

The blog IDEA Money Watch compiled information released by the U.S. Department of Education and created a nice chart that spells out how much each state stands to lose in federal funding for special education, should the sequester cuts stay in place.

States received about $11.5 billion in Part B funds for fiscal year 2012—Part B refers to the special education dollars that are used to educate students ages 5 to 21. The numbers in this chart assume a 5 percent reduction in funding for fiscal 2013. As explained in my colleague Alyson Klein’s excellent piece on frequently asked sequester questions, the sequester doesn’t mean that states will immediately start to feel the pinch, because the money has been “forward-funded.” Any budget impact would start to be felt more in the 2013-14 school year.

via IDEA Sequester Cuts, By The Numbers.

Legislative Analyst’s Office: Overview of Special Education in California

Recent K-12 Education Publications, Handouts and Budget Recommendations

Special education is the catch-all term that encompasses the specialized services that schools provide for disabled students. Developing a more thorough understanding of how California’s disabled students are served is the first step towards improving their educational outcomes. Toward this end, our primer is intended to provide the Legislature and public with an overview of special education in California—conveying information on special education laws, affected students, services, funding, and academic outcomes.

via Overview of Special Education in California.

EdSource Today: Districts pay more for special ed, feds underfund

By 

California school districts are shouldering a bigger share of the cost of special education, reflecting a further shift of the burden from state and federal governments, according to a new report from the state Legislative Analyst’s Office. Between the 2004-05 school year and 2010-11, the local portion of special education services grew from 32 percent to 39 percent. During that same period, the percentage paid by the federal and state governments fell. School districts now pay more than twice what the federal government puts in, or about $3.4 billion a year. The LAO report says the feds have never paid their full share under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

via Districts pay more for special ed, feds underfund – by Kathryn Baron.

Education Week: Special Ed. Coalition Finds Flaws in Report on School Staff Surge

From guest blogger Kimberly Shannon

The National Coalition for Personnel Shortages in Special Education and Related Services has released a statement in response to a controversial report by the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice that alleged that schools and districts had experienced staff bloating.

The Friedman Foundation’s report, entitled “The School Staffing Surge: Decades of Employment Growth in America’s Public Schools”, released in October, finds that the amount of United States K-12 public school students increased 17 percent while the number of full-time equivalent school employees increased 39 percent. It also finds that the amount of teacher staff rose 32 percent while the numbers of administrators and other staff rose 46 percent; it does not mention how many of these staff members are special education personnel.

via Special Ed. Coalition Finds Flaws in Report on School Staff Surge.

Education Week: After 30 Years of Special Ed. Law, How Far Have We Really Come?

It’s been more than 30 years since Congress passed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. But when I was describing the basic tenets of the law and its provisions to a group of visitors from Kazakhstan last week, I wondered if they really got the impression the law was the landmark legislation that it is.

Consider that children with disabilities, in the past, were often denied an education altogether. Students with some of the most severe disabilities were institutionalized. Expectations for this group of students were low or nonexistent.

via After 30 Years of Special Ed. Law, How Far Have We Really Come?.

Education Next: Maintenance of Inefficiency

In November 2010, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan presciently observed that, in coming years, educators would “face the challenge of doing more with less,” but warned against discouragement: “Enormous opportunities for improving the productivity of our education system lie ahead if we are smart, innovative, and courageous in rethinking the status quo.” The budget challenges Mr. Duncan foresaw are now reality: States and districts face tough decisions about education spending as revenue declines and federal stimulus spending dries up. But officials who have attempted to do more with less have often found themselves stymied in one key area by the intransigence of the very agency that Mr. Duncan leads.

via Maintenance of Inefficiency.

Education Week: Could Cutting Special Ed. Spending Improve Student Achievement?

A new analysis of the cost of special education concludes that by cutting special education personnel in high-spending districts to the national average, the country could save up to $10 billion a year and improve educational outcomes for students with disabilities.

In “Boosting the Quality and Efficiency of Special Education,” former Arlington, Mass., Superintendent Nathan Levenson analyzed spending and staffing patterns in 43 percent of all school districts with at least 3,000 students, looking closely at how those districts spend money on students with disabilities.

via Could Cutting Special Ed. Spending Improve Student Achievement?.

Education Week: The Legal Side of RTI and Students With Learning Disabilities

In a new three-part discussion about response to intervention, Lehigh University Professor Perry A. Zirkel discusses the legal implications of this approach to addressing and ferreting out learning disabilities.

The discussion is an interesting one (that you might find a tad technical), especially considering that RTI has been adopted widely across the country following the 2004 reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

via The Legal Side of RTI and Students With Learning Disabilities.

Education Week: One Step Forward, One Step Back For Students With Disabilities?

Thirteen years after a family sued the San Francisco school district over its lack of adherence with the Americans with Disabilities Act, the district has installed its last elevators, ramps, and accessible toilets in its schools.

The district spent $250 million to fix 50,000 violations, the San Francisco Chronicle reported this week.

The work entailed adding elevators, wheelchair ramps, new light switches, wider doorways, wheelchair lifts, Braille signs, and water fountains accessible from wheelchairs, the Chronicle reported. In the process, the district spent another $550 million to upgrade schools in other ways, including replacing roofs, heating systems, windows, repainting, repaving playgrounds, and so on.

Complying with the ADA took so long in part because San Francisco has the oldest school building inventory in California and the city’s hilly landscape made work more challenging, the school district’s facilities director told the newspaper.

via One Step Forward, One Step Back For Students With Disabilities?.

Daily Republic: Fairfield-Suisun district sues to keep child out of school

FAIRFIELD — Lawyers for the Fairfield-Suisun School District have turned to the federal courts in Sacramento trying to keep an expelled seventh-grader out of school.

One day in November 2011, the 12-year-old student at Suisun Valley Elementary School, identified only as B.S. in the lawsuit, got a hold of a female classmate’s notebook. B.S. scrawled a message in the notebook threatening to rape, torture and kill the girl.

B.S. was promptly suspended and within days, expulsion proceedings were initiated.

A week before, B.S. got into trouble for making a death threat against his teacher by soliciting classmates to join him in killing the teacher. The day after the threat, about a week before the boy penned the rape-torture note to a classmate, the boy’s mother told school staff she had concerns about her son’s psychotic thinking, his browsing the Internet for handguns and his access to guns at his father’s house.

via Fairfield-Suisun district sues to keep child out of school.

Education Week: GAO: Transition for Students With Disabilities Can, Must Improve

Although a number of federal government programs and services are intended to help students with disabilities after they leave high school, those programs aren’t coordinated well, making them difficult for students and their families to navigate, a new report from the Government Accountability Office says.

Services students can apply for include tutoring, vocational training, and assistive technology. These come from the federal departments of Education, Labor, Health and Human Services, and the Social Security Administration. But the different agencies only coordinate their activities to an extent and don’t ever reflect on how effectively they work together, the GAO said in the report, released today.

While ideally, students with disabilities get help planning for life after high school—planning for a path that leads to work or additional schooling—once they leave school they are on their own in applying for services and support from various federal government agencies.

via GAO: Transition for Students With Disabilities Can, Must Improve.

Education Week: On Special Education – Feds Pledge More Focus on Outcomes for Students With Disabilities

Federal special education officials on Monday reaffirmed a pledge to focus more on how special education students are faring, rather than almost exclusively concentrating on whether states are technically upholding the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

At the IDEA Leadership Conference, Melody Musgrove, the director of the office of special education programs, shared trends on students’ performance on state assessments and on dropout rates for students with disabilities, which have been largely unchanged for the past few years.

“We’re proposing a new way to be held accountable in special ed,” Musgrove said.

While federal monitoring of some specific issues has improved states’ work in those areas, said Ruth Ryder, deputy director of the office of special education programs, focusing almost exclusively on compliance with the law hasn’t made much of a difference where it counts: those test scores and dropout rates, among other measures.

via Feds Pledge More Focus on Outcomes for Students With Disabilities.