DOE to delay South Carolina special education funding punishment

In the latest twist in an ongoing dispute with the Obama Administration and South Carolina over special education funding, the U.S. Department of Education will postpone for a year planned cuts of $36 million to special education services in South Carolina.

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News from South Carolina

The funding cuts, which are made to punish the state for its own special education cuts in the 2009-10 school year, will go into effect Oct 1, 2012, according to an Education Department letter sent to the state August 9, as reported in an article by the Associated Press.

Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, states can only reduce funding for special education from one year to the next if they are granted a one-year waiver from the Education Department. The waivers are granted only in cases of “exceptional or uncontrollable circumstances.”

In a June 17 letter, the Education Department threatened to withhold $111.5 million from the state as punishment for its cuts during the previous three years, saying it was required to spend at least $20.3 million more on special education services in 2008-09, $67.4 million in 2009-10 and $75.3 million in 2010-11.

The cuts for 2008-09 were approved by a one-year-waiver. The one-year-waiver for the cuts to 2010-11 were rejected entirely, but the state responded by closing this gap by cobbling together $75.3 million in funding through an unexpected increase in revenue and lower-than-expected prices for school bus diesel fuel.

The cuts for 2009-10, however, were only partially approved through the waiver, leaving the state $36.2 million short in special education funding in its obligations under the Individual with Disabilities Act, hence the figure the Education Department imposed as punishment for South Carolina’s special education shortcomings.