Special Education

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How much do districts, states, and the federal government spend on special education each year?

Nobody really knows, according to the federally funded Center for Special Education Finance in Palo Alto, Calif.

The U.S. Department of Education's office of special education programs stopped requiring states to collect such data after the 1987-88 school year because of concerns about accuracy. Some states also were unable to provide the needed information, according to the CSEF.

When the research center surveyed states in the 1994-95 school year, only 24 were able to report their statewide special education costs. And only 13 of those states said they were "highly confident" of their data, the center reported in a recent policy brief.

The average per-pupil expenditure for special education varied widely among the 24 states, with figures ranging from $2,758 in Indiana to $8,501 in Connecticut, the report says. Twelve of the 24 states reported that the state government paid for at least 50 percent of the special education costs for each student with disabilities.

The last formal estimate by federal officials of state expenditures totaled $19.3 billion in the 1987-88 school year. Based on available data, the CSEF estimates that the total now ranges from about $30.9 billion to $34.8 billion.

In the report, CSEF officials say they want states to do a better job of collecting data on how much they spend annually on special education services.

Lesley College plans to create a Center for Special Education with a $5 million gift it received this month.

Administrators there believe it's the largest private gift ever given specifically for special education programs, and it's also the largest donation the 13,000-student private college in Cambridge, Mass., has ever received.

The gift came from Tashia and John Morgridge. Mr. Morgridge is the president of Cisco Systems Inc., a San Jose, Calif., company that manufactures computer-networking equipment and often lobbies for vocational education and training. Ms. Morgridge is a retired special education teacher who received her master's degree from Lesley College's school of education.

The center will help increase the amount of research conducted by the college and allow collaborative faculty efforts to create new programs and services for special-needs children, said Paul Karoff, the college's vice president of public affairs.
--JOETTA L. SACK [email protected]

Vol. 17, Issue 35, Page 7

Published in Print: May 13, 1998, as Special Education
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