Special Ed Funding: A Sorry State of Affairs

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As a therapist, I often run into the challenges to get the children and adolescents the services that they need.  How do you in times of limited budgets, get the funding needed for IEP and the services that go along with special education.

In a nutshell, in good times and hard times, schools always claim they are “cash strapped.” This has gone on for so long – decades – that people don’t question it. Less than two years ago, the feds provided a huge infusion of federal funds to education AND special education, and increased the amount of federal funding long term.

Some states have refused the funds. Others have left the money in the pot, saying they MAY withdraw it later. The feds require states and school districts to

  • use the funds for designated purposes and/or
  • account for how they spend the money

Because some schools don’t want to comply with the accounting requirements,  they are not inclined to withdraw the funds.

During the boom,  because teachers had to buy supplies for their students, Congress added a tax exemption for these expenses. The situation is bizarre.

Not too long ago, I wrote a post on this topic.  When Cash Strapped School Districts Sing the Blues at https://www.wrightslaw.com/blog/?p=4242

If you scroll down to the comments after the post, you’ll find this comment:

Go to the US DOE’s website and do a search for the name of your state superintendent and find the IDEA grant award letter for your state. We could educate entire third world countries for the money they get…..we are talking about BILLIONS of dollars PER STATE per year!
According to this link this state, is getting, “$11,505,211,000 appropriated for Section 611 in FFY 2010″ YEP, it is BILLION!

Here is the link to this state’s award letter, parents be prepared to be FLOORED:


According to the letter SusanB posted:

“The amount in your award for Section 619 represents the full amount of funds to which you are entitled. However, the amount shown in your award for the Section 611 program is only part of the total funds that will be awarded to you for FFY 2010. Of the $11,505,211,000 appropriated for Section 611 in FFY 2010, $2,912,828,000 is available for awards on July 1, 2010, and $8,592,383,000 will be available for awards on October 1, 2010.”

So much for the cash-strapped, “unfunded mandate” excuse for not educating children with disabilities.

Where Is the Money Going?

After SusanB posted this link, a SLP added a comment about her request for supplies – no money, yet the district is getting many thousands of dollars per child. She wondered “where the money is going?”  Good question. It isn’t going to the students or teachers.

If you hunt in the DOE site, you can find the letter that describes federal funding for your state. Prepare to be shocked. This is a sorry state of affairs.

  1. I am looking at the ED website and found the budget for Special Education 2011. I believe that the 8 billion is the amount allocated to all the states. Each state receives a portion of that amount under the Grants to States program.
    Here is the link:

    I know what the awards letter says in the article but this seems to be all-inclusive.

    Please read before responding. Not to say that 11 billion isn’t alot of money.


  2. I work in a preschool, where I believe kids with disabilities are hugely underserved. Of course, part of it is identifying kids with disabilities and part of it is convincing parents to let their kids get services. But the public school seems to be doing very little in terms of getting information out there to help parents understand the ramifications of not getting services sooner rather than later. I’ve had some experience with kids with ADHD. Often, these kids are too little for medication so must have some behavioral interventions from the preschool/ public school because their behaviors negatively impact them and keep them from learning. They also face ostracism from their classmates because of the lack of social skills. And yet, ADHD in preschoolers is still not taken seriously by the public school.

  3. I’m on board with the sentiment of this article, but the facts are really wrong. The $11 billion quoted in the article is the amount of federal funds allocated for *all states*, not just South Carolina. Good grief, the entire SC state budget is $21 billion, so $11 billion for Section 611 funding would be quite a lot, no?

  4. Can someone explain to me how the monies for special ed are allowed to be used? My son has a para, and it’s always been hinted that there isn’t funding for that. I even had a school administrator admit that para funding is used to employee reading teachers and other “supplemental” staff. I know there is no training provided to my son’s para, so they aren’t using funding for that purpose either. Can they do that? Use special education funding for other purposes?

  5. I viewed my son’s file. It was the shock of my life. He has been in “Intense Intervention Needed” since kindergarden. They are not even informing parents that their own children are not making progress. I have filed a complaint with ODE and have collected all the evidence that they will need.I have done so much research on this site and have learned so much about IEP’s and the schools responsibility to educate our children. I have spoke with the superintendent and the board members about the federal funds from IDEA that they have received to educate my child and ask them why my child cannot read.They just stumble over themselves and look at the floor.I implore parents to do the same. There needs to be accountability for those funds.I AM going to the press with these facts.I have had enough!!

  6. My wife and I have a special needs child and my wife works in a public school.
    She attended a meeting earlier in the school year with the teachers of her grade. They collectively had 24 students that were being referred for RTI. The teachers were told at the start of the meeting that the school has “8 spots” available and that the team needs to work out which students would get them.
    It is disheartening to know that this is a common practice in any school district, but especially when this same school district denied our child a FAPE in the past.
    The deception that has to be practiced towards that children that the school district chooses to deny, actually hurts the child who can keep up with minimal interventions.

  7. Is there evidance how much of the state part b section 611 award goes to the local schools?? I found what our state receives, $11,505,211,000,,,but I cant tract down what our school district got itself. I know they received $380,000 in stimulus $$ in 09..Is this the same as section 611????

  8. I have two children on IEPs. I’ve used Ohio Legal Rights Agency to get training for the school on my oldest child’s disability and an appropriate IEP. Now, here we go again with my second child. He has Dyslexia with a writing disability. They have not followed his IEP. He was provided a special ed teacher with very limited knowledge on the Wilson Reading Program. She was to track his progress using the Dibels RTI. This was not done. In the meantime, his progress reports say “Adequate progress.” He is at the end of his 3rd grade, reads at an entry level first grade. Our last meeting I was told that they didnt have the $$ to train his teacher.I asked the pricipal (I already knew the answer,,lol)how much of the stimulus $$ they received.She then asked me what I wanted for him.I replied,,,Only what HE NEEDS to read.Media is next step!!

  9. I have been in many meetings where money has been raised as an issue in providing services. My first reply is that funding is never an appropriate topic at a Committee on Special Education meeting. I now will have even more data to refute the position that SpEd “takes money away from the education of regular students”. Appropriate special education services are always cost efficient. LRE and data driven goals will produce that outcome. They produce students prepared “for further education, employment and independent living.” A parent should never be bullied into accepting less that their child is entitled to based on wrongly assigned guilt over the money needed to provide those services.

    • PARC vs the Commonwealth: A student can not be denied services they need because of the cost the school district will incur.

  10. I have attended two IEP meetings in the last four months, two different schools, where we have been subjected to a tirade from the school principals. We were told that Special Education Law is “ruining” the public education system in this country. Apparently parents are just “lazy” and are asking the school districts to spend money on things that the parents should be paying for. In both meetings we were rendered speechless. Our district apparently is facing a multimillion dollar shortfall due to the Stimulus funds being cut off. I intend to check my state DOE web site to find out about funding! Thanks for the info. I can’t wait to get some answers!

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