Education Week - April 3, 2013 - (Page 19)

EDUCATION WEEK n APRIL 3, 2013 n 19 Congress Tweaks Special Education Funding Mandates States still required to keep up spending By Alyson Klein States that run afoul of federal rules for special education funding will still be punished—though not forever—under a technical but important tweak to state-spending-level requirements known as “maintenance of effort.” The change, which was crafted with the help of the U.S. Department of Education, was included in the broad federal spending bill, or continuing resolution, for the rest of fiscal year 2013, which Congress passed last month. Under maintenance of effort, states can’t cut their own education spending below the amount they spent the previous year and still tap federal dollars for special education under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, unless they get special permission from the department. Keeping up special education “ We can’t afford to lose one penny that can help provide our nation’s children and youth with disabilities ... the supports and services they deserve.” LINDSAY JONES Council for Exceptional Children spending is usually not a problem for states, but it became an issue during the recent recession. South Carolina, in particular, has been at loggerheads with the federal department over the issue. The state sued the Education Department in connection with special education funding after the department withheld $36 million in special education aid in October. That reduction was slated to stay in place permanently, until Congress and the Obama administration intervened. ‘Common Sense’ The administration and lawmakers, including U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, the chairman of the Senate subcommittee that oversees education spending, added a provision to the recent spending legislation clarifying that while states out of compliance with the law will still see their aid reduced, such cuts won’t be in place in permanently. Instead, such a reduction would just be for the time that a state was out of compliance and didn’t get a waiver. Once the problem had been fixed, the state could go back to its regular spending levels. The new provision goes on to explain that the funding withheld would still go to the idea, just not to the offending state. Any money taken away from a state that didn’t keep up its end of the spending bargain would be split among states that did, as a kind of bonus. But the extra funds to those states would be one-time allotments. “Without this language, these funds for special education and related services would lapse and be unavailable for the children with disabilities they are intended to serve,” Michael Yudin, the Education Department’s acting assistant secretary for special education and rehabilitative services, said in an email. South Carolina isn’t the only state that the language helps. Kansas lost $2 million in idea funding last year for similar reasons. New Jersey and New Mexico may find themselves in similar straits if their pending requests for waivers of the maintenance-ofeffort rule aren’t approved. The change pleases Mick Zais, the South Carolina schools chief. “Congress, led by the South Carolina federal delegation, has heard my plea for common sense regarding the federal government’s penalty imposed on South Carolina’s children,” he said in a news release. The action “repeals the absurd perpetual penalty that withheld $36,202,909 in funds used to provide services to students with disabilities,” Mr. Zais said. “This is a victory for students with disabilities in South Carolina and across the nation.” Nancy Reder, the deputy ex- ecutive director of the National Association of State Directors of Special Education, also is happy with how things turned out. “It’s absolutely a good compromise,” she said in an interview. The Council for Exceptional Children, based in Arlington, Va., also supported the change. “We can’t afford to lose one penny that can help provide our nation’s children and youth with disabilities the appropriate supports and services they deserve under the law,” Lindsay Jones, the senior director of policy and advocacy services for the cec, said in an email. ADVERTISEMENT IS IT GOOD FOR THE KIDS? A Nation Still at Risk By Gene R. Carter, Executive Director, ASCD In April 1983, an education commission tasked with examining the quality of education in the United States released A Nation at Risk, a seminal report that warned of a “rising tide of mediocrity” that threatened our schools and future. Thirty years later, a new education commission created by Congress to provide advice on addressing educational disparities warns in its report, For Each and Every Child, that “the tide has come in—and we’re drowning.” As evidence of the country’s continuing education challenges, the new report from the Equity and Excellence Commission points to both our average performance on international assessments and our persistent achievement gaps between poor and minority students and their more advantaged peers. As I reflect on the past three decades, I believe we must acknowledge the nation’s meaningful education progress. A Nation at Risk preceded an age of standards-based education reform, disaggregated performance data, and accountability that led to improvements in reading and math achievement, particularly at the elementary level. More recently, the Common Core State Standards are raising the bar for all students, providing a consistent and clear understanding of the reading and math knowledge and skills students need to be ready for college and their careers. But the commission is right. This isn’t enough. As long as some children are routinely assigned the least-prepared teachers, attend schools in disrepair, make do with outdated technology and instructional materials, and have limited access to a broad and rich curriculum, our nation is still at risk. What’s more, it is misguided and naïve to think that robust standards and effective teaching and leading will help children reach their highest potential if we don’t also attend to the crucial out-of-school factors that can impede learning. To help eradicate the profound inequities among schools and students and to fulfill the country’s deeply held belief in equal opportunity for all, the commission’s report offers the following five recommendations: • Improve school finance and efficiency so that children’s opportunities are not a function of their socioeconomic backgrounds. • Strengthen teaching and leading by providing educators with the supports they need to be effective with all learners. • Ensure universal access to highquality early childhood education to narrow the disparities in readiness when children reach kindergarten. • Mitigate poverty’s effects by providing support to low-income communities, including parental engagement, access to health and social services, and extended instructional time. • Transform governance and accountability systems to hold national, state, and local stakeholders responsible for on-the-ground results. The commission’s fourth recommendation deserves particular attention. Nearly one quarter of U.S. children live in poverty, and we cannot expect teachers and principals alone to be able to erase poverty’s pernicious effects on student learning. But instead of watering down expectations for certain students or becoming overwhelmed by their steep barriers to learning, schools must join with families, community-based service providers, and other stakeholders to share research, data, idea generation, and resources to provide a coordinated approach for meeting each student’s varying needs. According to the commission, such coordination could focus on providing parent education, professional development to help educators meaningfully involve parents in their children’s education, crisis counseling and support for families in need, health services for at-risk students, high-quality after-school and extended day programs, and effective dropout prevention programs. At ASCD, we believe that each community should choose the specific strategies that work for its unique population of students and families. Taken together, however, the strategies must ensure that young people are healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged. Just as A Nation at Risk jump-started a period of standards-based reform, I hope the commission’s next generation of recommendations marks a new era of improvement. This time, however, we need to take a more sophisticated approach that acknowledges both the needs of the whole child and the essential role of those outside the schoolhouse doors in helping to meet those needs. Look for the upcoming ASCD Policy Points, which will focus on the 30th anniversary of A Nation at Risk, a Read For Each and Every Child at www. 1703 North Beauregard St. • Alexandria, VA 22311-1714 USA • Web: 1-800-933-ASCD (2723) or 1-703-578-9600 • Fax: 1-703-575-5400 • E-mail:

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - April 3, 2013

Education Week - April 3, 2013
Test Rules Differ Between Groups for Special Ed.
Consortia Struggle With ELL Provisions
FOCUS ON: ASSOCIATIONS: Leadership Shifts in Changing Field
Safety Plan for Schools: No Guns
Access to Common Exams Probed
News in Brief
Report Roundup
Gaps Found in Access to Qualified Math Teachers
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: 3-D Printing Classes In a Virginia School Attract Global Visitors
Arizona Weighing ‘Performance Funding’ For Schools
L.A. ‘Incubator School’ to Teach Startup Tactics
Blogs of the Week
Cantor Raises Profile on Schooling Issues
Calif. Districts’ Waiver Bid Heads to Review Phase
Policy Brief
Congress Tweaks Special Education Funding Mandates
Marriage Arguments Hit Children’s Issues
ROBIN LAKE & ALEX MEDLER: Do Charter Schools Serve Special-Needs Students? The Answer Is Complicated
ARTHUR H. CAMINS: Assessing the Impact Of New Science Standards
LAURIE BARNOSKI: School Leaders: Make Sure Your Teachers Don’t Lose Heart
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment
DAVID BERNSTEIN: It’s Time to Mainstream Progressive Education

Education Week - April 3, 2013