Things may be about to get worse in special education

The Department of Education may be about to take $33,302,428 of special education funds away from the State of Texas. Yikes!  That would only make a hard job harder.  What’s this about?

One of the more obscure but important provisions in our special education statute (IDEA) is known as the Maintenance of Effort (MOE) requirement.  The feds want to be sure that states don’t take federal money and use it to replace state funding.  The same requirement applies at the local level—districts cannot take special education money from the state and use it to replace local funding.

MOE requires that states spend at least the same amount on special education students from year to year.  You can’t spend less in Year Two than you did in Year One, subject to a few narrow exceptions.  Now the feds have accused Texas of exactly that, to the tune of over $33 million. That would pay for a lot of speech therapy.

Texas does not deny that it spent less in State Fiscal Year 2012 (SFY) than in Year 2011. Nor does it deny the dollar amount.  But Texas maintains that the reduction was due to the fact that students required less expensive services. The state uses a formula to determine funding by which local districts receive more money for serving students with more intensive needs.  So Texas argues that it used the same formula and met student needs to the same degree in both years...but that the needs in Year Two were less expensive than the needs in Year One.

That argument fell flat when presented to the Department of Education which issued its decision on May 23, 2018:

The federal statute is clear and unambiguous. The plain language of the statute and the Department’s determination is affirmed.  Texas is not eligible for $33,302,428 of its IDEA Part B Section 611 grant because it failed to maintain that amount of state financial support in SFY 2012.

The decision has been appealed to the 5th Circuit which heard oral arguments on the case this month. Stay tuned.  If we lose this much federal money it’s going to only pile on to the financial problems facing our legislators in 2019.


 Tomorrow: Toolbox Tuesday looks at LRE requirements.