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Federal Agency Slashes Budgets For Spec. Ed. in Two States

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The U.S. Department of Education withheld about $33 million in special education funds from South Carolina this month, penalizing the state for cutting its own spending on special-needs students three years ago. Kansas' special education budget was cut by about $2 million for similar reasons.

In what may be first-of-a-kind penalties, the department invoked part of federal law that allows it to cut a state's special education grant, permanently, if the state slashes its special education budget without the right justification.

In South Carolina, the cut represents a 9 percent reduction in the special education budget.

State Superintendent Mick Zais has attempted to negotiate with the department to no avail. However, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit hasn't ruled yet on a petition for a review of U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan's May 22 decision not to grant South Carolina a hearing over the issue.

Federal law requires states to keep special education budgets steady, or boost spending, each year.

South Carolina cut special education spending several years in a row, noting a decline in state revenue in 2008-09, 2009-10, and 2010-11. While the Education Department agreed some of the cuts were justified, it says South Carolina trimmed more than necessary in 2009-10—before Mr. Zais was elected in 2010.

In Kansas, the state was granted a waiver to cut more than $53 million from special education in 2009-10, but the state cut more.

The Education Department's office of special education imposed the cuts Oct. 1 "as required by the statute."

Vol. 32, Issue 09, Page 5

Published in Print: October 24, 2012, as Federal Agency Slashes Budgets For Spec. Ed. in Two States
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