How Much Money Should School Districts Have To Contribute Toward Special Education

Jun 19, 2024 | Blog

In the world of special education funding there is a concept known as “maintenance of effort” which, in my limited understanding, means something to the effect of “If a school spends $10 million dollars on special education in the year 2011, it must spend at least $10 million on special education in 2012.” I guess this presumes that the cost of special education and the number of kids in need of special education are both rising. What about accounting for the children who are being mainstreamed? Is it possible that in a given year a school district’s special education expenses would be lower than the previous year’s?

According to Disability Scoop, school districts who fail to fulfill their “maintenance of effort” obligation may have found a loophole. In some instances defaulting districts are not being held to the $$ amount they were supposed to pay in the previous year, but rather they are expected to pay the number they actually paid in that previous year. Shouldn’t there be stricter consequences for districts who fail to live up to their obligations?

I guess it’s a balancing test. Each school district must do an analysis that looks something like this – “On the one hand, we may lose federal funding for the year that we default on our obligation. On the other hand, if we default this year, then next year we will have to pay less than what would otherwise have been required.”