DPI to request $600 million boost in special education categorical aid

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is reporting that State Superintendent Tony Evers will announce later today that the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) budget request for the upcoming 2019-21 state budget will include a request for a $600 increase in special education categorical aid for school districts.

The paper reports the increase would more than double the rate at which the state reimburses districts for services they provide to students with disabilities from the current roughly 26 percent to 60 percent.  Reimbursements are paid on a pro-rated basis and are based on the prior-year aidable costs incurred by districts.

Currently, the state provides $369 million annually in special education categorical aid to school districts, an amount that has not changed since the 2008-09 school year, while special education costs have been increasing.

The WASB has been advocating for an increase in special education categorical aid for some time.  The current WASB resolution (Resolution 2.31) calls for not less than 33 percent reimbursement of prior year aidable costs. It reads (in pertinent part):

2.31   Funding for Children with Disabilities

               The WASB supports increasing the special education categorical aid reimbursement level to not less than 33 percent of prior year eligible costs and maintaining funding at not less than this percentage each year thereafter…

Numerous school districts testified before the Blue Ribbon Commission on School Funding that flat funding of special education categorical aid, when coupled with increasing special education costs and revenue limits, requires them to transfer money from their General Fund (Fund 10) to their Special Education Fund (Fund 27).   This effectively transfers money from regular education programs to pay for special education services required to provided under the individualized education plans (IEPs) of students with disabilities.

Earlier this year, the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) prepared four  memoranda for the Blue Ribbon Commission on the topic of special education funding:

UPDATE  (11:50 a.m.-7/30/18)  The DPI has now posted information about this request on its website. You can find that material here