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end special education funding cap

FREE webinar: Educators want end to special education funding cap

Schools need funding for all special ed students, not just 13.5%

In every state in the country public schools receive both state and federal funding to provide educational services and support to students with disabilities. In Washington, the state provides the largest chunk of funding for special education, however that funding is currently capped at 13.5% of a district’s student population – even if more than 13.5% of students receive special education services. Seattle School District’s 8,000 special education students make up about 16 percent of the district’s student body at this time.

What does it mean for children with disabilities and the teachers and aides who serve them if a funding cap is exceeded? Find out at a free webinar hosted by the League of Education Voters Thursday, February 16 at 12:30 p.m

Live Spanish interpretation and closed captioning in English will be provided.

During the event, education experts and advocates for ending the special education funding cap will explain what it is, how many school districts are negatively impacted by the cap, and what needs to be done to remove it.

“Cover(ing) the cost of providing special education services, which is required by the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act,  is an equity issue,” says Arik Korman, communications director for the League of Education Voters. Korman will facilitate the online conversation.

The Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) explained the problem this way in their request for cap elimination: “Funding that school districts receive for special education services is not well aligned with their expenditures, leaving some districts to rely on local levies to supplement their special education programs.”  

OSPI has requested lawmakers remove the 13.5% cap on state special education funding during the current session of the Washington State Legislature when it ends in April. The office has asked lawmakers to increase special education funding to fully cover the cost of all services provided to Washington’s eligible kids and to support the state’s promise of inclusionary practices in classes. The cost of the request is $971.9 million for the 2023–25 biennium. 

According to Seattle Public Schools’ statement of 2023 legislated priorities, the district is “committed to improving outcomes for all students through the provision of basic education with the services and supports students need to engage in their learning. The current formulas to allocate state funding to school districts for special education and transportation —key components of basic education—result in funding gaps that require districts to use local funds to cover the costs to meet students’ needs. To address these structural issues and ensure every student is provided state-funded access to their basic education and mandated services, the funding formulas for special education funding and transportation funding need to be revised to fully fund the costs of these services.” The district is calling on lawmakers to fully fund special education services and transportation for kids with special needs. 

Removing the funding cap may also help kids in the juvenile justice system. According to the state Department of Children, Youth and Families, kids in that system are more likely than the general student population to have both identified disabilities and other disabilities that are never identified.

Webinar panelists (the League of Education Voters calls their such online events “LEVinars”) will include:

Can’t attend on Thursday? The League of Education Voters invites you to register anyway to receive a link to a webinar recording.

 For more information, read the League of Education’s special education funding cap issue.

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About the Author

Cheryl Murfin

Cheryl Murfin is managing editor at Seattle's Child. She is also a certified doula, lactation educator for and a certified AWA writing workshop facilitator at