This month, Congress clarified how states that fail to adequately fund special education services from year to year will be penalized. The changes to IDEA regulations, put forth by the Obama administration, are said have “broad support on Capitol Hill”.
Special education funding is governed by “maintenance of effort”, or a regulation stating that funding levels must maintained or increased from one year to the next. States need special permission and a waiver from the federal government to be exempt from meeting maintenance of effort in any given year, or they may find themselves facing serious consequences. South Carolina and Kansas learned this the hard way in recent years when making drastic cuts to their special education budgets without obtaining the proper waiver from the federal government resulted in a permanent reduction in their allotment of federal special education dollars.
The changes to the penalties for not meeting maintenance of effort include the following:
1. Penalties for failing to meet maintenance of effort are no longer permanent. They only apply to the year(s) in which failure to meet maintenance of effort occurred.
2. Funds that are aren’t allocated to a state or states as a penalty are redistributed to other states that follow the rules as bonus special education dollars, instead of just being returned to government coffers. In this way, the money is still used to directly benefit students that use special education services.
The changes arose out of a concern that especially a permanent reduction to a state’s allotment as a penalty for not meeting maintenance of effort for as little as one year punished students using special education services in the state in perpetuity. South Carolina Superintendent Mike Zais considers the adoption of the new IDEA regulations “a victory for students with disabilities in South Carolina and across the nation.”