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Pennsylvania Chief Announces Special-Ed. Funding Increase

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Amid concerns over the funding of special education in Pennsylvania, officials have announced that state aid for those programs will increase by at least $38 million next year.

Secretary of Education Thomas K. Gilhool said he began notifying educators of the gifted and the handicapped last week about his department's plan to allocate a total of $522 million for programs for such students during the 1989-90 school year.

Complaints have been mounting in recent months over the growing deficit in the state's special-education budget. (See Education Week, April 26, 1989.)

State officials contend the deficit has been growing since the early 1980's because school districts and intermediate units spend more than the legislature appropriates. The state has attempted to make up the difference each year by borrowing from the following year's appropriation, which has resulted in a cumulative deficit of more than $90 million.

In an effort to contain the debt, Gov. Robert P. Casey has also asked the legislature for a supplemental appropriation of $25 million this year and $12 million in each of the next six fiscal years.

The controversy has been heightened because state officials--for the first time in at least 10 years--have also begun reviewing districts' and intermediate units' special-education budgets. Some local educators argue that state officials are using the reviews to help balance the budget by "disallowing" such expenditures as salaries for art, music, and physical-education teachers.--dv

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