January 3, 2007
SPECIAL EDUCATION EXCESS COST GRANT
By: Judith Lohman, Chief Analyst
You asked how the special education excess cost grant is calculated. You also asked if a school district could be reimbursed for a special education service provided to several students, if it prorates the cost among the students.
SPECIAL EDUCATION EXCESS COST GRANT
The special education excess cost grant reimburses school districts for (1) the reasonable costs of special education for a student who lives in the district that exceed 4.5 times the district's average per pupil expenditures for the preceding year (CGS § 10-76g (b) (2) (B)) 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 (§ 10-76g (a) (2)). Reimbursable costs include those for special education instructional personnel, equipment and materials, tuition, transportation, rent for space or equipment, and consultant services, all as defined in § 10-76f.
The grant does not reimburse districts for regular education costs attributable to a special education student.
HOW THE GRANT IS CALCULATED
The excess cost grant is calculated by adding up all the reasonable costs of special education services a district provides to a particular student and subtracting the district's “basic contribution.” The basic contribution is 4.5 times a district's average per pupil expenditure for the preceding year, in the case of a resident student, and 100% of that expenditure in the case of a state-agency-placed child with no identifiable home school district. Any expenditure exceeding the basic contribution is reimbursable by the state.
The example stated in your question is of a district with an average per pupil expenditure of $9,000 and a special education student who receives special education services costing a total of $45,000. The district's basic contribution for a special education student who lives in the district is $40,500 ($9,000 x 4.5). If the student is a state-agency-placed child with no identifiable home district, the district's basic contribution is $9,000. In the former case, the state's excess cost reimbursement for the student is $4,500 and in the latter case, $36,000.
However, for the past several years including FY 07, the General Assembly has not appropriated enough money to provide full excess cost reimbursement, so the grants for resident students are prorated. This means that the district could receive less than $4,500 for the first student, depending on what other school districts spend. Grants for state agency placements cannot be reduced and must be paid in full.
ELIGIBILITY OF PRORATED COSTS PROVIDED TO SEVERAL STUDENTS
The law allows districts to be reimbursed for special education costs provided to more than one student, if they calculate the proportion of the total cost attributable to each special education student and can document the proportional amounts, if audited. Thus, if a district pays a speech therapist $60,000 to provide services equally for five special education students, the district can request state reimbursement for each student's $12,000 share of the total $60,000 cost.
In practice, according to Kevin Chambers of the State Department of Education's Grants Management Division, school districts rarely claim excess cost reimbursement for resident special education students being educated within the district. He is not sure why, but it may be that, in most such cases, district costs either do not exceed the 4.5 times threshold or, if they do, it is by such a small amount that districts do not think it is worthwhile to figure out and document the proportional costs of common services on a per-student basis. This may be more likely when, as now, grants are capped and districts are not receiving a full reimbursement for excess special education costs.