ECS: Wisconsin Has Lowest Special Education Reimbursement Rate

ecs logoAs we have mentioned before, special education categorical aid remains frozen in the proposed 2015-17 budget and hasn’t been increased since 2008-09.

As a result, according to data from the Education Commission of the States (ECS), Wisconsin has the lowest reimbursement rate of the five states that fund special education using a reimbursement method where funding is allocated outside of the state’s primary funding formula and districts are reimbursed after costs are accrued (see table below).

State            Reimbursement                      Student Count

Michigan Reimbursement: 28.6138% Two pupil counts are used: the number of students with an IEP (head count) and the special education full-time equivalent count. Each student is counted only once and represents a full person, regardless of the setting in which they are educated.
Nebraska Reimbursement has varied 51% – 57% since 2010 N/A
Vermont Reimbursement: 60% for
(1) 9.75 special education teaching positions per 1,000 average daily membership (ADM) and
(2) up to two special education administrators per supervisory
union/district based on ADM
Average Daily Membership
Wisconsin Reimbursement: 26.79% N/A
Wyoming Reimbursement: 100% N/A

According to ECS, about 13 percent of all public school students receive special educational services and state spending for these students is rising.  While service costs have been increasing, the share of the costs covered by federal funding has been decreasing. Six years ago, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) covered 33 percent of the cost of educating students with disabilities. In 2014, that number dropped to 16 percent. As a result, states and districts are scrambling to pick up a greater share of the tab.

Current funding mechanisms:

  • Thirty three states fund services for students with disabilities through their state’s primary funding formula.
  • Twelve states fund services for students with disabilities through categorical funds.
  • Five states, including Wisconsin, fund services for students with disabilities through reimbursements.

One state, Wyoming, reimburses districts for 100 percent of the actual cost for educating students with disabilities.