The MLO Minute: By Nancy Potter, Esq.
This month, Pennsylvania special education advocates jointly submitted a letter to Governor Wolf. Signatories include MLO Founder and Managing Partner Dennis McAndrews. The letter urges Governor Wolf to increase state investment in special education in his budget for the 2020-2021 Fiscal Year. Advocates for the more than 270,000 students with disabilities in Pennsylvania are calling for an increase of $100 million in special education funding and for restoring the declining state share of special education funding. The letter also encourages the Governor to work to revise the state’s special education funding formula, specifically tying funding levels to need.
The Governor did successfully advocate for a $50 million increase in state special education funding this budget year. However, Districts continue to struggle under the weight of the 2008 education funding cuts. In fact, since 2008, individual districts have been responsible for approximately 90% of the increased costs of special education services, while the state share of special education funding has decreased from one third to less than a quarter. This decrease in state share increases the burden on local districts and their tax base.
According to an October 2019 report published by the Education Law Center, between 2008 and 2018, Pennsylvania increased state special education funding by $95 million, or about 10%. Yet during that time, total special education costs to local school districts increased by $1.7 billion ‒ or 58%. This growing reliance on local funding to provide needed services for students with disabilities is unsustainable.
The state of Pennsylvania and local Districts remain legally responsible under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) for ensuring that students with disabilities receive a free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment. If your child is not receiving the supports and services that they are legally entitled to, contact MLO to see how we can help you address such issues by clicking here or calling 610-648-9300.