Thursday, November 30, 2017

Funding adjustments for students with disabilities?

State Superintendent for Public Instruction Chris Reykdal has made three requests for the state's 2018 supplemental operating budget that would have a direct impact on students with developmental disabilities:

  • Fund a technical assistance team to help schools reduce exclusionary discipline
  • Adjust the multiplier for special education, increasing funding to cover actual costs
  • Increase funding for the Safety Net to cover costs of high need individual students

These requests would reduce funding gaps in special education and help ensure students with disabilities have access to the education they need to thrive as adults.
Equity in Student Discipline
Across the state, students of color and students with disabilities are disproportionately impacted by the use of suspensions and expulsions—giving rise to concerns about equitable treatment, equal opportunities, and discrimination. The Superintendent requests $236,000 for FY 19 to fund staff at OSPI who will develop and implement a targeted technical assistance and monitoring process. This will provide districts the support they need to implement evidence-based practices to eliminate these disparities, reduce the overall use of exclusionary discipline, and maintain a safe and positive school climate. These efforts are in alignment with Washington’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) consolidated plan.

FY 2019:

FY 2019-21: $456,000

Education Cost
Despite recent changes made during the 2017 legislative session, Washington State’s Special Education program—an integral component of basic education funding formula—continues to be underfunded. This can be corrected by adjusting the excess cost multiplier established in 1995 from .9309 of the district’s base allocation per full-time equivalent student to 1.09 which is more reflective of national averages for special education services. This would generate revenue sufficient to the amount charged to local funds by districts in 2015-16, approximately $164,000,000, while taking into consideration the increase in the special education funding index from 12.7% to 13.5%.
FY 2019: $130.5 million

FY 2019-21:
$366 million

Safety Net
This request is to increase funding in FY 19 for special education safety net general fund-state appropriation by $15,913,000, from $31,087,000 to $47,000,000. This request is due to the increased number of requests for funding for high need individual students.
FY 2019: $15.9

If you like, or disagree, with these recommendations, you can let your state elected leaders know. You can find their contact information here. Superintendent Reykdal's recommendations go to the governor's staff who then draft the governor's operating budget proposal. That proposal is never actually voted on, but it will get a public hearing and serves as a starting point for budget discussions.

The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction will also offer testimony during the legislative session and will likely raise these issues.

All three of the requests address issues we have raised at The Arc of King County, mainly the need to change approaches to discipline when working with students with disabilities or students affected by trauma; the shortfall in state funding for actual costs of special education; and inadequacy of the Safety Net.

They do not address the cap on special education funding and we remain concerned about that, for both budget and civil rights concerns.