Plans Dropped on Easing Penalties for Special Ed. Cuts
Education Department backs off after outcry from advocacy groups
The U.S. Department of Education this month took back an offer it made to school districts last summer that would have let them cut special education spending permanently, with only a one-time penalty, and for reasons other than existing exemptions in federal disability education law.
The federal "maintenance of effort" clause has been built into special education spending rules to buffer students with disabilities from changes in services triggered by the ups and downs of public spending and politics. Under that clause, states and districts must increase spending or keep it level from year to year. Violating the rules can lead to the loss of federal dollars awarded to states under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
In a letter to the National Association of State Directors of Special Education last June, however, the Education Department signaled a shift in its thinking on the matter. To the alarm of many in the special education community, the department said that if districts lowered their special education spending for any reason, whether or not it was because of exceptions built into the law, districts didn't have to resume spending at the previously higher level. Instead, districts could use the lower rate of spending as their new benchmark for future special education budgeting. ( "Rules Relaxed on Budget Cuts to Special Ed.," ...
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