Education Week - April 3, 2013 - (Page 19)
APRIL 3, 2013
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
afford to lose one
penny that can
help provide our
and youth with
disabilities ... the
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.
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
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.
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
• Improve school finance and efficiency so that children’s opportunities
are not a function of their socioeconomic
• Strengthen teaching and leading
by providing educators with the supports they need to be effective with all
• 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
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 www.ascd.org/policy. Read For Each and Every Child at www.
1703 North Beauregard St. • Alexandria, VA 22311-1714 USA • Web: www.ascd.org
1-800-933-ASCD (2723) or 1-703-578-9600 • Fax: 1-703-575-5400 • E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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
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
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
DAVID BERNSTEIN: It’s Time to Mainstream Progressive Education
Education Week - April 3, 2013