Resources: Special Education

Special Education

Fair School Funding

  • In a statement on the Pennsylvania budget, ELC welcomes the news from the General Assembly that state funding for basic education, special education, and pre-K in the coming school year will not be reduced from current levels, despite the dropoff in state revenues. Schools are already facing substantial decreases in revenue from local sources due to the economic downturn – as well as added costs associated with COVID-19 and the shift to remote learning. The state must promptly find ways to provide additional support to the struggling, underfunded school districts whose students have been hardest hit by this crisis. Read the full statement here.

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  • Dozens of Pennsylvania organizations and advocates joined in a letter to Gov. Wolf in January 2020, urging him to help address the unmet needs of over 270,000 students with disabilities in Pennsylvania by increasing investment in special education and basic education in his FY2020-21 budget.

    The letter calls for an increase of $100 million in special education funding and for restoring the declining state share of special education funding to the level of a decade ago – as well as calling for additional dollars in basic education funding to close the state’s massive adequacy gap . Finally, it calls for revisions to the state’s special education funding formula, both to better reflect district poverty and to extend the current three-tier funding system to charter schools, tying funding levels to student need.

    Read the letter.

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  • Research for Action and the Education Law Center have released a new report that presents simple solutions to making Pennsylvania’s special education funding more equitable and adequate.

    As the state legislature’s reconvened Special Education Funding Commission develops recommendations for how to fairly fund the education of students with disabilities, this analysis suggests that:

    • Pennsylvania align its Special Education Funding (SEF) formula with the formula adopted by the state in 2016 for distributing Basic Education Funding (BEF); and
    • The state should increase the amount of dollars distributed through the updated formula.

    Both the SEF formula (adopted in 2014) and BEF formula (adopted in 2016) apportion state aid similarly, based on both student and district characteristics. But the commission charged with developing the BEF formula determined that newer metrics would more accurately measure each school district’s wealth and tax effort. These newer metrics in the BEF tend to allocate greater resources to districts with higher proportions of historically disadvantaged student groups, including students receiving free or reduced lunch and students of color. The RFA-ELC report recommends that the Special Education Funding Commission incorporate these metrics in any proposed update to the SEF formula. Read the report here.

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  • ELC policy director Reynelle Brown Staley testified to the Pennsylvania legislature’s Special Education Funding Commission on Oct. 8, as the commission wrapped up a series of hearings to review the state’s funding formula for special education.

    Staley noted that it bears emphasizing that decisions about how to distribute funds cannot truly be divorced from the issue of how much funding is available. “When resources are scarce, decisions about how those resources are distributed can either sustain or debilitate a community,” she said.

    ELC’s recommendations for making the funding formula more equitable included introducing some of the measures of district need that are used in the formula for basic education; adding weights to account for the unrecognized costs of special education services for particular marginalized populations such as English learners; and dedicating a bigger chunk of any funding increases to support the poorest, most inadequately funded school districts.

     

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  • This October 2018 report from the Education Law Center highlights how the rise in special education costs in districts across the state is outpacing state special education funding, creating new challenges for underfunded school districts.

    Read the Report

    See the district-level special education funding data

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Special Education

Equal Access

Special Education

School to Prison Pipeline