November 9, 2015

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How are current IDEA MoE provisions hurting students?

On October 19, 2015 a report was issued by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) examining the functionality of the current “maintenance of effort” provisions in IDEA. You can access the report here: 

There were many important takeaways from the report that support the adoption of legislation such as HR 2965—the BOLD Flexibility in IDEA Act--that we highlighted in an earlier blogpost. Below are a few examples from the GAO report of how the current IDEA MoE provisions are negatively impacting students. 

  •  A Michigan district said that when they had difficulty hiring a staff psychologist they had to contract for psychologist services, which turned out to be less costly than what the district spent on those services previously, causing challenges in meeting MOE. 
  • An official in one Texas district said that although their special education director recommended expanding their integrated athletics program for children with disabilities, they chose not to because they did not want to commit to the increased costs in an environment of ongoing budget uncertainty. 
  • A Virginia state education official said that districts feel penalized for complying with IDEA’s directive to serve more students with disabilities in general education classrooms since this more inclusive model can be less costly than placing all these students in special education classrooms; yet the MOE requirement is not flexible enough to allow for this without putting districts at risk of failing to meet MOE. 
  • Several district officials noted that protecting special education funding does not necessarily equate to protecting or improving special education services. For example, a Minnesota district official said the 100 percent MOE requirement may discourage districts from striving to make students with disabilities as independent as possible if such actions would reduce special education spending. He was concerned that not enough attention was being given in the IEP process to encourage greater independence and inclusion and that the process was being driven by maintaining expenses rather than responding to the evolving needs of students. 
  • A New Jersey district official said his district failed to meet MOE after reorganizing to share the cost of a special education director with another district. 

MOE can discourage efforts to implement efficiencies that could help reduce costs and can lead to unnecessary spending to comply with the requirement. For example, one Wisconsin district official commenting on the U.S. Department of Education’s 2013 NPRM said that because of state legislative changes that required reductions in their contributions to teacher benefits, they had to find other ways to spend money on special education to meet MOE regardless of whether the expenditures were needed. 

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