(Dec 11) Special Education Funding Commission releases final report

By Steve Esack, Call Harrisburg Bureau  10:13 p.m. EST, December 11, 2013

HARRISBURG — It’s been six years since the state Legislature gave school districts more money to cover special education costs.

The state’s special education funding to 500 school districts has been capped at about $1 billion since 2008-09, while the number of special education students has risen about 3 percent to 268,466 — one in every seven public students in the state.

“It doesn’t take a mathematician to prove that’s really a loss,” East Penn School District Superintendent Thomas Seidenberger said.

More money could flow to districts via a new special education funding formula unveiled Wednesday if the Legislature does decide to lift the cap in the 2014-15 budget as state Sen. Pat Browne, R-Lehigh, would like his fellow lawmakers to do.

The formula was recommended by the Special Education Funding Commission, chaired by Browne and Rep. Bernie O’Neill, R-Bucks. It would distribute new money based on the severity of a student’s disability as opposed to the existing formula that dispenses money under the assumption that 16 percent of all students in all districts have at least one of a dozen legally recognized disabilities.

Under the commission’s plan, special education money would be based on a three-tiered formula tied to individual students’ needs in each district and publicly funded charter schools. The state would differentiate special education services among least intensive to most intensive at costs ranging from $25,000 or less, $35,000 to $50,000, to $50,000 or more.

The new formula would only go into effect if the Legislature and Corbett adopt the formula into law and direct extra money into special education in 2014-15 or future years.

The commission will hold another public hearing in 2014 to present its report to the House and Senate.

The full report can be found on Browne’s website: http://www.senatorbrowne.com/

Full story: State panel: Change special education funding formula Steve Esack, The Morning Call, 12/11/13

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