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Cost of Special Education Found Twice as High as That for Others

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Washington--Educating a special-needs student costs more than twice as much as educating a regular-education student, a new national study has found.

The study, funded by the Education Department, reported that public and private schools spent an average of $6,335 during the 1985-86 school year on each special-education child. The average for other students was $2,780.

Roughly 10 percent of all school-age children qualify for special-education services.

The analysis also found that special-education costs increased 10 percent, after accounting for inflation, between 1977 and 1985. Regular-education costs, however, rose only 4 percent during that period.

The study, which is expected to be formally released later this month, accords with the two other major investigations of special-education costs--a 1970 report and a 1981 rand Corporation study, both of which found that special education is about twice as expensive as regular education.

Conducted by the Washington-based Decision Resources Corporation, the latest study was based on visits to 60 districts and private4schools in 18 states.

The costs of educating special-needs children can vary greatly, according to preliminary results of the study. Spending levels depend on the types of services provided, and on whether students are placed in "self-contained" programs, which provide more than 15 hours a week of special services, or in "resource" programs lasting fewer than 15 hours a week.

For example, a speech-impaired child who attended a resource program required an additional $647 in instructional costs, the study noted. But placing a severely impaired child in a self-contained program cost an additional $7,140.

The study also indicated that it cost an average of $5,723 to educate a handicapped preschool-age child, and more than $29,000 to place a child in a residential program.

In addition to instructional expenses, special-education students require costly supplemental services, the study found. Some 13 percent of all special-education money was spent on assessment, while 5 percent was spent on transportation.--ef

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