Thursday, June 29, 2017

Special education gets small bump in 2017-19 budget

The K-12 education part of the 2017-19 budget deal was released. In a surprise move, they bumped up the cap on special education funding from 12.7 percent of full-time enrollment (FTE) to 13.5 percent FTE.

Considering years of resistance to even looking at the cap, this is a significant shift and will increase funding for hundreds of students with disabilities.

However ... going off last year's list of districts over the cap, the change means just 30 additional districts will now have all of their students requiring special education covered; the remaining 90 districts -- including one of the state's largest, Spokane -- still fall short.

$300 million short ... additional $9.4 million in relief

For some context, in a 2015 amicus brief in the McCleary school funding lawsuit, the state superintendent's office reported school districts paid an additional $266 million in local funds to cover the full cost of special education that year. Another $40 million in relief came from the state's special education safety net, putting the state's basic education allocation for special education about $300 million short.

This proposed change in the cap funds an additional $9.4 million for special education next year. 

So ... a significant shift from refusing to consider or even discuss special education funding. But not a solution.

- Ramona Hattendorf, Director of Advocacy, The Arc of  King County