Children’s Law Center executive director Judith Sandalow raised concerns about potential cuts to special education funding at a DC Council hearing on the mayor’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2013. Sandalow’s testimony focused on the budget proposals for District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) and the Office of the State Superintendent for Education (OSSE). Read a summary below or review her full testimony as submitted to the Council.
Sandalow said that special education was “noticeably underfunded” in the proposed FY 2013 budget. Previously, Mayor Vincent C. Gray had stated that savings from non-public tuition payments for some special education students would be reinvested into inclusive public education, but an analysis of the budget by CLC staff finds no evidence that the reinvestment is planned. Moreover, there is an overall cut of $200,000 and 222 full-time equivalent positions from the special education budget. At the same time, DCPS anticipates special education enrollment to increase by 13%, 895 students – the majority of whom will have a high level of needed services.
OSSE is responsible for DC’s Early Intervention Program young children birth to 3. Investing in programs like this would be an effective way to reduce special education costs, because “the earlier children are identified as having special needs, the more we can do to ensure their success and the less money we will spend in the long run.” Initiatives that OSSE is planning would require funding to succeed – and significantly more funding than is alloted in the proposed budget. OSSE has also suggested a redesign of the special education transporation program that seems promising in these early stages.