As the cost of educating students with disabilities continues to rise, Connecticut’s local municipalities are struggling both to meet federal mandates and to balance their annual budgets. General education costs have risen by 40% over the last decade, and costs for special education have increased by 65%, with one in every eight students receiving special education services. These costs can be particularly burdensome at the district-level because, by their very nature, these needs are supplementary and sometimes unanticipated; districts cannot always predict the full extent of their students’ potential needs.
In order to alleviate some of this burden, the state of Connecticut administers an Excess Cost Grant to assist school districts with extraordinary special education costs. The state’s Excess Cost Grant is not designed to reimburse school districts for all of their special education costs. Rather, these grants only cover a certain reimbursable percentage that fluctuates from year to year. The Excess Cost Grant is also usually not fully funded by the state. Thus, even with state assistance, districts are still facing the same dilemma every year: allocating funding for special education costs without knowing either: (1) the needs of new, incoming students to the district; or (2) what percentage of the costs of extraordinary services will actually be covered by the state’s Excess Cost Grant.
This brief paper explores the impact of Excess Cost Grant shortfalls by reviewing the history behind this funding, some of the challenges it creates, and a case study of one district.Read More »