House Passes Special Ed “Reform”

Yesterday, without much press, the Pennsylvania House passed special education funding reforms that attempt to improve the effectiveness of special ed funding. Rep. Sturla’s bill would adjust the funding formula by distinguishing three funding categories for students with severe, moderate, and minor disabilities.

Rep. Boyd addressed(subscription) the real problem when he questioned the cost of the bill’s “hold harmless” provisions which allow districts to retain the same amount of funding in future years, even if their special education population declines.

“If a district loses 30 percent of their special needs students, but they’re held harmless, and that 30 percent [of students] goes to another district that’s going to require more money, how are we gonna do that?”, asked Boyd.

“The reality is we have a finite number of dollars in this commonwealth, and if we’re going to distribute that finite number of dollars based on formula driven need … I think it’s incumbent upon us at some point in time to say some district may not get the same amount of revenues they got the year before because they have a significantly lower cost factor based on their declining enrollment of special needs students,” said Boyd.

Special ed funding should operate like all educational funding – the dollars should follow students to the school they choose to attend. In fact, special education vouchers have proven successful and noncontroversial in a number of states.