Education Week - March 1, 2017 - 15
Additional money is layered
on top of that base.
a bruising conﬁrmation battle. Some
media outlets, including the New
York Times, reported that there was
disagreement between DeVos and
Attorney General Jeff Sessions about
whether to rescind the guidance.
White House Press Secretary Sean
Spicer said the disagreement was
about the timing and wording of the
letter, not on the core decision.
Sessions and DeVos issued separate
statements along with the agencies'
"Dear Colleague" letter withdrawing
the guidance. DeVos's statement emphasized a continued need to protect
students from bullying and harassment. Sessions mentioned bullying,
but focused more on interpretations
of the federal law.
"I have dedicated my career to advocating for and ﬁghting on behalf of
students, and as secretary of education, I consider protecting all students,
PAGE 16 >
"If you want to get to a world where
we can get students more personalized information about how people
like you did ... we really can't achieve
that without substantial changes to
our federal postsecondary data systems," Miller said.
The Obama administration unveiled a redesigned College Scorecard
in 2015 that shows information about
debt load, graduation rates, and other
data points. The scorecard has gotten
mixed reviews, and the scope of information it presents to prospective
students is limited because it only reports information on those students
who receive federal ﬁnancial aid to
attend college. But its fate under
the Trump administration and this
Congress is unclear, in part because
congressional Republicans might see
it as "too much of an Obama thing,"
Public colleges and universities, as
well as some congressional Republicans, have indicated their support for
more detailed reporting on students
in higher education. One example of
this is the Student Right to Know Before You Go Act of 2015, which would
have relied on individual-level information and transcripts and published
average postgraduation earnings and
average federal loan debt, while removing personally identiﬁable data.
It was co-sponsored by Sens. Marco
Rubio, R-Fla.; Mark Warner, D-Va.;
and Ron Wyden, D-Ore.
Separately, changes for Pell
Grants might have broader support
Lovell of the Alliance for Excellent
Education said he's hopeful that the
program is changed to provide more
support for dual-enrollment and
early-college high school programs,
citing such a proposal written by Sen.
Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Warner,
as well as a pilot for dual-enrollment
programs instituted by the Obama
"We know that kids who are better prepared in high school are
better prepared to go into postsecondary and succeed," Lovell said
of such uses for Pell Grants. "It
should be a money saver and an
Spec. Ed. Aid
By Christina A. Samuels
The notion of making federal special education funding "portable"-
allowing money to follow individual
students with disabilities so they
can pay for the schools and services
they choose-has been on the drawing board in conservative circles for
Now, the idea has at least one wellplaced supporter: U.S. Secretary of
Education Betsy DeVos, who gave the
concept a positive mention during a
brief exchange at her confirmation
Much of the media focus during the
run-up to DeVos' razor-thin conﬁrmation focused on her responses to questions about whether the rules of the
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act should apply to all schools
that receive federal funds.
Less discussed was her response
to Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who
asked DeVos whether she would do
anything to send more special education dollars to the states. "That
is an action that would help every
single school district in this country," Collins said.
Determining the amount of money
that is allotted for special education is actually the role of Congress,
which determines the budgets of individual federal departments. Currently, about $11.9 billion is allocated
for special education grants to states.
But DeVos said that she would commit to looking into the issue.
"I actually think this is an area
that could be considered for an approach that would be somewhat
different, in that maybe the money
should follow individual students instead of going directly to the states.
I think that's something we could
discuss, and I would look forward
to discussing with members of this
committee," she said.
Such a change would have support among some lawmakers.
Sen. Tim Scott, a Republican from
South Carolina, introduced a bill
called the CHOICE Act that would
allow states that already have
voucher programs aimed at students with disabilities to add federal
special education dollars to them.
Currently, 12 of the 26 voucher programs operating nationwide are
for students with disabilities. A bill
with largely the same provisions
has been introduced at least twice
before by Republicans.
And, though President Donald
Trump did not speak about such issues on the campaign trail, former
Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney
made IDEA and Title I portability a feature of his education plan
when he was the GOP presidential
nominee in 2012. Title I is a federal funding stream that supports
The formula calls for every
state to receive the same amount
of money it was given
in ﬁscal 1999.
of the remaining funding
is based on a state's share
of children ages 3-21.
is based on a state's share
of children in poverty.
Additional formulas come
into play to ensure that state
funding does not fall below
or rise above a certain level.
per student ages 3-21
in special education.
For ﬁscal 2016,
the federal government's
share of special
education in direct
grants to states was
SOURCE: Education Week
THE COMPLEXITY OF SPECIAL EDUCATION FUNDING
The funding formula for federal special education aid was last adjusted in 1999.
That formula, however, has not kept up with population shifts, changes in the number
of students with disabilities, or the types of disabilities that students have.
Currently, the federal government pays about 16 percent of the cost of educating
a student with disabilities, or less than $1,800 per student.
schools with high numbers of disadvantaged students.
Allowing federal special education
money to follow students would be a
radical departure from the current
funding mechanism, a complex formula that is tied to a state's overall
share of students as well as its population of students in poverty. And
if a voucher program were ﬁnanced
only with federal money, each student's share would be small based
on current funding levels: about
$1,800 per student for those ages
3 to 21 with disabilities, according
to U.S. Department of Education
But having a vocal school choice
advocate in a leadership position
could garner additional consideration for the proposal. In a letter
responding to questions from Sen.
Patty Murray, D-Wash., DeVos said
that parents of students with disabilities need more options.
"Offering parents of students
with disabilities the opportunity to
choose between a private school, a
different public school, or a nonpublic school setting empowers the parents to receive what works best for
their child," she said.
The last time Congress touched
special education funding was in
1997, during a reauthorization of
the IDEA. (The special education
law was also reauthorized in 2004,
but the formula for distributing
money did not change.) The formula
is based on a state's overall student
enrollment and the number of stu-
dents in poverty. Additional calculations come into play, based on
factors such as how much a state received in a previous year or changes
in year-to-year federal allocations.
The nearly 20-year-old formula
has led to some inequities, according to New America, a Washingtonbased think tank that investigated
it in 2014. Notably, New America
found that small districts get proportionally more money per student
than larger ones and that districts
that are losing enrollment receive
more money per student than growing districts.
Another, bigger problem from the
perspective of school districts: Congress has never funded special education at the level that is authorized
under the IDEA. Back in 1975, Congress said that it would fund special
education at up to 40 percent of average per-pupil expenditure in public
schools. But the federal contribution
is hovering at around 16 percent.
Pushing Back on Portability
Special education funding is due
for a re-examination, but unraveling
the system through funding portability is not the answer, said Scott
Sargrad, the managing director of
the K-12 education policy team for
Center for American Progress, a
left-leaning Washington think tank.
"This would be a massive shift in
IDEA, not just in funding but in the
way the program works," Sargrad
And a voucher system for students
with disabilities is a risky proposition
for many families, he said. For example, students with disabilities who
enroll in private schools do not have
the same individual special education
rights as students in public schools.
"They lose significant rights by
taking on these vouchers and going
to a school that doesn't have to comply with IDEA," Sargrad said.
Such policies also "drain signiﬁcant resources from the public
school system, but they don't necessarily reduce costs by all that much.
They still have services that they
need to provide to all students," he
Lindsey Burke, who leads the Center for Education Policy for the conservative Heritage Foundation, said
providing federal money to parents
who have already chosen to place
their children in private schools is an
intermediate step that might garner
less pushback than a wholesale reform of the present system.
Under the IDEA, private schools
are entitled to some special education services, provided by the local
district where those schools are located. That support from the district
must be "equitable" among all the
private schools, but individual private school students are not guaranteed a full range of services under
"That federal money is already
there, so maybe we can make this a
little more ﬂexible, instead of running
it through a formula," Burke said.
EDUCATION WEEK | March 1, 2017 | www.edweek.org | 15
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - March 1, 2017
Education Week - March 1, 2017
Districts, Advocates Warily Await Health-Care Law Overhaul
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: Teachers Turning To Digital Games For Civics Lessons
Educators Join New Fight to Stop Gun Bills
A State of Limbo for DACA Teachers
News in Brief
More Students Take AP Tests—and More Are Low-Income
District Leaders Weigh How—and Whether —to Engage DeVos
Can Schools Offer Sanctuary?
Attention Turns to Courts in Battle Over Transgender Rights
Congress May Turn Focus to Higher Education Law
Spec. Ed. Aid a Candidate For Choice?
High Court Backs Family in Case Of Service Dog at School
Transition Update: Trump Administration
Funding Formulas: States Wrangle Over K-12 Aid
State of the States
Maria Ferguson: In Standards Battle, States Should Stay the Course
Jia Lok Pratt: ‘Why Can’t All Schools Succeed?’
Ron Wolk: End the Charter Schools War
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Anthony Kim: Predictions for American Education in 2017
Education Week - March 1, 2017 - A State of Limbo for DACA Teachers
Education Week - March 1, 2017 - 2
Education Week - March 1, 2017 - 3
Education Week - March 1, 2017 - News in Brief
Education Week - March 1, 2017 - Report Roundup
Education Week - March 1, 2017 - More Students Take AP Tests—and More Are Low-Income
Education Week - March 1, 2017 - District Leaders Weigh How—and Whether —to Engage DeVos
Education Week - March 1, 2017 - 8
Education Week - March 1, 2017 - 9
Education Week - March 1, 2017 - 10
Education Week - March 1, 2017 - 11
Education Week - March 1, 2017 - Can Schools Offer Sanctuary?
Education Week - March 1, 2017 - 13
Education Week - March 1, 2017 - Congress May Turn Focus to Higher Education Law
Education Week - March 1, 2017 - Spec. Ed. Aid a Candidate For Choice?
Education Week - March 1, 2017 - High Court Backs Family in Case Of Service Dog at School
Education Week - March 1, 2017 - Transition Update: Trump Administration
Education Week - March 1, 2017 - State of the States
Education Week - March 1, 2017 - 19
Education Week - March 1, 2017 - Jia Lok Pratt: ‘Why Can’t All Schools Succeed?’
Education Week - March 1, 2017 - Ron Wolk: End the Charter Schools War
Education Week - March 1, 2017 - Letters
Education Week - March 1, 2017 - 23
Education Week - March 1, 2017 - TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Education Week - March 1, 2017 - 25
Education Week - March 1, 2017 - 26
Education Week - March 1, 2017 - 27
Education Week - March 1, 2017 - Anthony Kim: Predictions for American Education in 2017
Education Week - March 1, 2017 - CW1
Education Week - March 1, 2017 - CW2
Education Week - March 1, 2017 - CW3
Education Week - March 1, 2017 - CW4