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More Funding Urged for Students with Disabilities

Since 2008, the state share of special-ed costs has declined from 32% to less than 25%. (Olesia Bilkei/Adobe Stock)
Since 2008, the state share of special-ed costs has declined from 32% to less than 25%. (Olesia Bilkei/Adobe Stock)
January 9, 2020

HARRISBURG, Pa. - Gov. Tom Wolf has received a request for $100 million more for students with disabilities.

More than 40 organizations and individuals have signed onto a letter asking the governor to increase state funding for special education in his budget for the coming fiscal year.

According to Reynelle Brown Staley, policy director at the Education Law Center, for years local school districts have been picking up a growing share of special education costs.

"Since 2008, local districts have borne roughly 90% of the increased costs of special education services, and that's been the equivalent of about $1.6 billion," she states.

Staley adds that in the same period, the state's share of special education costs has declined from roughly one third to less than one quarter of total expenses.

Staley says the state also needs to revise the special education funding formula. Currently districts that can afford to spend the most on special education receive more state funding, while poorer districts receive less than they need.

"We have encouraged the legislature to think about how to ensure that those funds that they are allocating are directed to the districts and to the students with the greatest needs," she states.

Education advocates also are urging lawmakers to close the gap in basic education funding that has grown to almost $4 billion.

Staley notes that special education students receive both special education and basic education funding, and to truly meet the needs of all students will require additional state funding for both of those budget lines.

"When the state isn't providing enough support for special education, the school districts rely on basic education funding to support general education and special education services," she points out.

Staley says the bottom line is Pennsylvania needs to invest more to ensure that the state's 270,000 students with disabilities are getting the education services they are legally entitled to receive.

Disclosure: Education Law Center contributes to our fund for reporting on Children's Issues, Disabilities, Education, Social Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Andrea Sears, Public News Service - PA