A federal funding cut to the South Carolina Department of Education for special education will not affect the current school year, but it could affect the 2013-2014 school year, a South Carolina DOE spokesman said.
Last October the U.S. Department of Education withheld $36 million for special needs students as a punishment to the state for not spending enough on this student population in the 2009-2010 school year. South Carolina DOE spokesman Jay Ragley said to replace this loss, the state has provided one-time state funds for the 2012-2013 school year.
Next school year’s funding for special education, however, may be in question. Ragley added: “If the federal IDEA funds are cut again next year, it will affect the amount of school resources overall for serving students with disabilities. If a student's IEP [Individualized Education Plan] requires transportation accommodations, and federal funds are reduced, the school district may have to find another source of funds for transportation expenses.”
The $36 million penalty was originally set to begin October 2011, but the U.S. DOE delayed this punishment by a year. The $36 million is the balance of an initial $111 million penalty issued in June 2011, after other amounts were forgiven.
The federal government used a provision in federal law that allows cutting a state’s special education grant, permanently, if the state cuts its special-ed budget without the right justification – an penalty that may be a first of its kind. This $36 million federal funding cut can continue every year going forward.
State Superintendent of Education Mike Zais, who began his position in January 2011, appealed the partial penalty in August 2011 and asked for a hearing as well as for another one-year delay pending a final decision. Federal officials, however, denied the request last April, stating it gave the delay so the state could prepare for the loss.
This prompted Zais to ask senators to add $36 million to the 2012-13 budget for special education to avoid additional penalties. The Senate’s spending plan includes that money.