Topic:
FEDERAL ASSISTANCE PROGRAMS; STATISTICAL INFORMATION; GRANTS; SCHOOL DISTRICTS; STATE FUNDS; HANDICAPPED; STATE MANDATED PROGRAMS; SCHOOL FINANCE; SPECIAL EDUCATION;
Location:
EDUCATION - FINANCE; EDUCATION - SPECIAL;

OLR Research Report


December 6, 2005

 

2005-R-0892

SPECIAL EDUCATION MANDATES AND FUNDING

By: Judith Lohman, Chief Analyst

You asked for a brief summary of the special education mandates in federal and state law and for information on state and federal funding to local school districts for special education.

SUMMARY

Special education is mandated by both state and federal law. Though Connecticut's special education law predates the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) by seven years, the federal law currently controls. Special education laws do not consist of a series of specific mandates. Rather, they establish broad requirements that school districts identify children with disabilities that affect their educational performance and provide them with a “free and appropriate public education” tailored to their individual needs. Federal and state laws and regulations also impose procedural, notice, and due process requirements for implementing the overarching mandate.

School districts receive funding for special education from both the federal government and the state, although school district expenditures for special education commonly exceed federal and state aid amounts. When it passed the federal special education law, Congress promised that the federal government would pay 40% of the average cost of special education; but, federal special education funding to school districts has never approached this level. In FY 04, the federal government's contribution was 20% nationally.

In FY 05, the federal government spent an estimated $10.6 billion on special education grants to states, of which an estimated $132 million went to Connecticut. This amount is only 55% of what Connecticut would have received in FY 05 if Congress had provided the promised 40% funding.

The state funds special education through two categorical grants, only one of which it funded (but not fully) in FYs 04 and 05. The state distributed an estimated $66 million to municipalities in FY 05 to reimburse them for their special education expenditures for very high-cost cases and for students placed by state agencies for whom no home district liable for special education costs can be identified.

State funding for special education was substantially increased in the 2005-07 biennial budget. Not only is the appropriation for high-cost cases and state agency placements increased, but the second special education grant, which goes to districts with higher-than-average special education costs, was funded for both FY 06 and FY 07. Federal funding for special education for FY 06 is currently uncertain because the U.S. House of Representatives rejected the Education Department budget bill on November 16, 2005. The U.S. Department of Education is operating under a continuing resolution until December 17, 2005.

STATE AND FEDERAL SPECIAL EDUCATION LAWS

Special education mandates on local school districts are required by both state and federal law. Connecticut's special education law (CGS 10-76a, et seq.) predates the federal law, having been first passed in 1967 while the federal law was passed in 1974. The federal law essentially supersedes the state law and the state law has been frequently amended to remain in conformity with the federal one.

Both laws require school districts to identify children requiring special education, prescribe suitable educational programs for eligible children, and provide special education for any eligible child. Children are eligible for special education if they have one or more of the following conditions, listed in federal regulations and incorporated by reference into state law, that affect their educational performance: mental retardation, hearing impairment including deafness, speech or language impairment, visual impairment including blindness, serious emotional disturbance,

orthopedic impairment, autism, traumatic brain injury, other health impairment, specific learning disability, deaf-blindness, or multiple disabilities. Federal law also allows states to include as eligible children aged three through nine who are experiencing a “developmental delay.” Connecticut law makes such children eligible.

Both laws define “special education” as specially designed instruction, developed in accordance with federal and state regulations, to meet the needs of each exceptional child, including related services recommended by the child's planning and placement team. It must be provided for children who require it from age three until they either graduate from high school or turn 21 years of age.

School districts must also comply with special education hearing procedures, if a parent or other person responsible for a special education child requests one, to review the child's diagnosis, special programs, exemption from school privileges, or any other matter concerning his right to a special education.

Another federal law, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, guarantees access to, and prohibits discrimination against, individuals with disabilities in any program or activity that receives or benefits from federal assistance. This law also covers public schools. It applies to any physical or mental disability that limits a major life function, such as learning. Thus, a student who does not meet the disability definitions required for special education but whose disability is covered by Section 504 must be afforded a “reasonable accommodation” for his disability to allow him to benefit from his education.

FEDERAL FUNDING FOR SPECIAL EDUCATION

FYs 2003-05

The federal government provides three special education grants to states under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The largest of the three is called “IDEA Part B.” This grant supports special education programs provided by states and local school districts for children in grades K-12. Two smaller grants support preschool programs (those for children aged 3 to 5 in Connecticut) and programs for infants and families (the so-called Birth-to-Three Program).

When Congress enacted the federal special education law in 1974, it promised to fund 40% of the average per-pupil expenditure for educating children with disabilities (“full funding”). But federal funding has always fallen short of this goal, reaching only 20% in FY 04. For FY 05, Connecticut received an estimated $132 million in federal special education grants. This amount is 45% less than the $240 million the state would have received under “full funding,” according to Federal Funds Information for the States (Issue Brief 04-57).

Table 1 below shows Connecticut's actual federal special education funding for FYs 03 and 04 and the estimated funding for FY 05.

Table 1: Federal Special Education Funding to Connecticut

FYs 2003-2005

Grant

2003

(actual)

2004

(actual)

2005

(estimate)

Special Education - Grants to States (IDEA Part B)

$103,861,437

$117,261,220

$122,729,106

Special Education – Preschool grants

4,980,763

4,983,470

4,947,833

Grants for Infants and Families

4,663,593

4,590,942

4,293,542

Total

$113,505,793

$126,835,632

$131,970,481

Source: U.S. Department of Education

IDEA Part B Grants to States

IDEA Part B grants are distributed to states according to a formula. The states in turn are required to distribute most of the funds to local education agencies directly serving children. States may retain part of the money for state-level activities, including administration and support of, and direct services to, children with disabilities. Connecticut distributed $102.6 million in IDEA Part B funds to local school districts in FY 05. (See Table 2, attached, for a district-by-district breakdown.)

STATE FUNDING

The state funds two categorical grants for special education. Money is distributed to towns based on their costs.

Excess Cost Grant

This grant pays (1) the costs of special education for any student that exceed 4.5 times his home district's average per pupil expenditure for regular education for the previous year (“catastrophic costs”) and (2) 100% of the cost of special education for any student placed in the district by a state agency and who has no identifiable home district in the state (“state agency placements”). For FYs 06 and 07, if state appropriations are insufficient to pay the catastrophic cost portion of the grant in full, those amounts must be proportionately reduced. Grants for state agency placements cannot be reduced and must be paid in full (CGS 10-76g, as amended by PA 05-245).

The biennial budget appropriates $92.5 million annually for this grant for FYs 06 and 07. This represents a 40% increase over an estimated expenditure of $66 million for the grant in FY 05.

Equity Grant

This grant provides funding to school districts with higher-than-average special education costs (CGS 10-76g (c)). The law requires it to be paid “within available appropriations.” The equity grant was not funded in FYs 04 and 05, but the current biennial budget appropriates $3 million for the grants for FY 06 and $4 million for FY 07.

Table 2 shows a district-by-district breakdown of FY 05 special education expenditures compared to the federal IDEA Part B and state excess cost grants each district received.

Table 2: School District Special Education Spending and State and Federal Funds Received, 2004-05

District

Total Special Education Expenditures

Federal IDEA Part B Funds

State Special Education Excess Cost Grant

Andover

$517,295

$74,129

$18,458

Ansonia

4,963,176

596,411

349,971

Ashford

1,848,860

114,698

277,333

Avon

5,774,952

446,372

301,236

Barkhamsted

727,052

0

47,635

Berlin

6,318,229

649,090

473,645

Bethany

1,009,513

70,167

0

Bethel

7,492,791

539,929

511,731

Bloomfield

5,459,594

491,786

312,805

Bolton

1,787,789

150,760

103,908

Bozrah

771,888

65,447

26,280

Branford

7,474,384

723,698

262,761

Bridgeport

43,562,759

4,252,059

3,581,999

Bristol

16,403,347

1,827,698

1,168,652

Brookfield

4,619,969

486,795

245,813

Brooklyn

2,334,919

208,796

202,699

Canaan

411,477

0

0

Canterbury

2,097,511

157,727

39,515

Canton

2,810,983

267,216

30,250

Chaplin

524,332

0

39,295

Cheshire

10,680,508

843,063

302,234

Chester

824,681

0

17,262

Clinton

4,904,292

403,914

183,949

Colchester

6,475,511

558,481

663,951

Colebrook

256,414

0

0

Columbia

1,709,979

83,850

50,067

Cornwall

361,178

0

0

Coventry

3,915,265

343,476

205,827

Cromwell

3,168,522

244,569

65,384

Danbury

17,842,730

1,862,245

547,488

Darien

10,471,769

877,096

882,746

Deep River

930,203

0

30,627

Derby

3,295,862

167,500

310,587

Eastford

741,110

34,651

20,182

East Granby

1,956,778

125,074

121,940

East Haddam

2,983,745

241,488

239,997

East Hampton

5,265,837

297,947

234,839

East Hartford

15,739,480

1,675,114

819,291

East Haven

8,542,959

798,542

357,964

East Lyme

6,371,709

493,721

369,198

Easton

2,205,064

173,332

40,604

East Windsor

2,867,262

251,854

370,253

Ellington

4,564,195

250,082

245,783

Enfield

11,551,076

1,215,313

759,562

Essex

1,394,598

0

18,606

Fairfield

24,631,572

2,115,596

928,509

Farmington

6,340,403

693,496

194,517

Franklin

585,298

38,203

40,288

-Continued-

District

Total Special Education Expenditures

Federal IDEA Part B Funds

State Special Education Excess Cost Grant

Glastonbury

12,507,104

1,031,385

923,470

Granby

3,946,432

312,509

117,261

Greenwich

30,058,541

1,643,011

1,637,479

Griswold

5,100,962

267,189

318,417

Groton

14,147,533

1,314,840

912,303

Guilford

8,999,588

680,871

344,846

Hamden

20,058,558

1,445,535

1,003,272

Hampton

362,822

0

0

Hartford

69,804,852

6,009,723

4,312,941

Hartland

754,712

0

15,100

Hebron

1,839,830

120,423

77,120

Kent

603,203

0

0

Killingly

6,410,418

574,609

623,281

Lebanon

2,533,698

212,603

112,251

Ledyard

6,404,668

496,261

405,996

Lisbon

1,406,411

121,362

0

Litchfield

2,442,509

233,720

132,887

Madison

6,802,791

610,070

512,087

Manchester

19,355,660

1,202,762

860,040

Mansfield

3,539,891

261,032

7,567

Marlborough

1,030,721

103,825

17,179

Meriden

22,285,397

2,225,857

1,081,644

Middletown

12,039,329

1,159,076

705,991

Milford

15,062,581

1,625,569

262,378

Monroe

6,511,669

572,241

228,542

Montville

6,115,231

564,393

148,882

Naugatuck

9,312,545

1,026,207

444,339

New Britain

31,180,649

3,012,158

1,382,624

New Canaan

10,859,128

854,841

0

New Fairfield

5,690,388

382,567

515,820

New Hartford

1,408,519

119,304

76,962

New Haven

47,900,923

5,085,869

2,271,272

Newington

7,847,358

583,322

705,455

New London

10,684,348

1,035,100

388,702

New Milford

10,688,946

665,200

644,314

Newtown

8,839,728

733,314

692,883

Norfolk

370,080

0

15,484

North Branford

4,261,575

362,591

165,133

North Canaan

726,982

0

0

North Haven

7209,022

490,681

477,088

North Stonington

1,861,495

167,849

24,055

Norwalk

26,662,185

1,740,196

1,56,798

Norwich

15,223,431

1,512,127

1,418,215

Old Saybrook

3,084,968

288,607

223,061

Orange

2,860,618

258,945

315,931

Oxford

4,022,858

244,214

81,097

Plainfield

6,776,358

589,764

526,233

Plainville

6,035,844

459,312

686,191

Plymouth

4,570,456

324,853

385,324

-Continued-

District

Total Special Education Expenditures

Federal IDEA Part B Funds

State Special Education Excess Cost Grant

Pomfret

1,736,591

145,377

251,859

Portland

3,221,093

331,701

123,020

Preston

2,182,783

107,408

120,589

Putnam

3,069,215

379,609

326,283

Redding

3,409,939

203,996

222,406

Ridgefield

10,517,585

443,471

341,348

Rocky Hill

4,369,912

318,549

132,690

Salem

1,399,121

103,203

93,784

Salisbury

775,304

0

0

Scotland

408,274

0

0

Seymour

4,316,836

508,281

274,377

Sharon

499,011

0

0

Shelton

10,359,064

692,738

390,164

Sherman

1,443,870

96,359

32,390

Simsbury

10,204,383

479,211

411,730

Somers

2,809,519

242,233

204,612

Southington

14,960,068

1,200,696

1,028,174

South Windsor

8,541,329

521,411

526,099

Sprague

1,883,325

90,289

308,021

Stafford

4,464,224

364,099

344,662

Stamford

35,400,122

2,551,476

968,238

Sterling

1,619,484

82,530

46,998

Stonington

4,985,797

418,580

120,892

Stratford

15,238,554

1,514,640

773,142

Suffield

3,683,377

315,904

230,739

Thomaston

2,404,966

249,668

123,384

Thompson

2,426,082

242,891

357,137

Tolland

4,577,548

417,038

562,705

Torrington

10,511,674

785,715

1,144,122

Trumbull

13,241,120

1,269,366

718,570

Union

83,483

11,337

0

Vernon

9,167,673

800,495

623,005

Voluntown

1,371,976

70,077

48,652

Wallingford

15,738,227

1,224,367

847,564

Waterbury

63,940,306

3,364,191

2,035,426

Waterford

7,038,705

527,408

224,132

Watertown

5,050,702

727,362

342,654

Westbrook

1,835,349

149,849

77,667

West Hartford

20,193,374

1,706,781

559,419

West Haven

16,459,848

968,011

989,446

Weston

7,033,073

560,443

423,057

Westport

13,798,490

785,259

373,097

Wethersfield

7,410,548

507,279

346,828

Willington

1,268,551

135,830

0

Wilton

9,820,999

622,629

838,258

Winchester

4,733,077

319,260

436,359

Windham

1,1490,434

878,885

244,151

Windsor

10,147,529

1,120,729

681,556

Windsor Locks

4,966,662

366,610

296,678

-Continued-

District

Total Special Education Expenditures

Federal IDEA Part B Funds

State Special Education Excess Cost Grant

Woodbridge

1,970,045

167,190

92,242

Woodstock

2,309,284

312,088

100,618

Region # 1

1,212,356

594,319

120,934

Region # 4

2,405,877

280,536

194,074

Region # 5

5,329,041

52,761

136,607

Region # 6

2,713,672

97,646

75,576

Region # 7

2,606,776

0

80,703

Region # 8

3,321,921

170,000

362,385

Region # 9

2,099,278

105,625

142,131

Region # 10

4,710,484

309,563

635,983

Region # 11

1,233,139

171,492

0

Region # 12

2,733,250

279,705

27,809

Region # 13

4,688,167

342,483

446,125

Region # 14

5,762,235

520,959

466,376

Region # 15

9,571,361

563,517

264,566

Region # 16

4,625,518

629,865

161,626

Region # 17

4,410,924

465,078

313,035

Region # 18

5,592,113

340,584

429,278

Region # 19

2,836,903

216,818

132,412

Total

$1,256,775,648

$102,645,832

$66,340,249

Source: State Department of Education

JL:ts