Putting Heat on McCleary for Special Education Funding

Press release I received today (red mine) 
Children’s Advocates Urge Supreme Court to Keep the Heat on the Legislature

OLYMPIA, WA (June 7, 2016) - The Washington Supreme Court should consider the unmet needs of students with disabilities when enforcing the State’s paramount duty to fully fund education, The Arc of Washington State and The Arc of King County said in a “friend of the court” brief filed today. 

The Arcs joined with other advocates for children with disabilities in filing the brief in McCleary v State of Washington, including Teamchild, Seattle Special Education PTA, Bellevue Special Needs PTA, Highline Special Needs PTA, Washington Autism Alliance & Advocacy, Open Doors for Multicultural Families, and several individuals who professionally support children with disabilities and their families in medical, clinical and educational settingsIt is the first amicus brief in the landmark school-funding case to focus on special education.
“More than 125,000 students in Washington have disabilities requiring special education.  For a fair chance to succeed, these children must have special instruction designed to meet their individual needs,” the advocacy coalition’s brief says, adding, “the Legislature has paid for special education as if every student needs the same funding, instead of fully funding the actual costs of properly educating children with disabilities.
The Supreme Court has been imposing sanctions of $100,000 a day against the State until it adopts a complete plan for complying with the constitutional duty to fully finance basic education.  The State is asking for the sanctions to be lifted, but an analysis by The Arcs found serious gaps in funding of special education, which is part of basic education.  For example, new state data shows:

·   The State allocates money as if no more than 12.7 percent of each district’s students in Kindergarten through 12th grade are enrolled in special education, but at least 120 school districts currently have a greater percentage of special education students than the state pays for;
·      Large districts such as Seattle and Spokane are spending millions of dollars more on special education than the state provides, using local tax levies to make up for the wide discrepancy between actual costs and state allocations.
Special education falls within the Legislature’s definition of “basic education,” which must provide broad educational opportunities and prepare all children to be self-supporting citizens.  The amicus brief explains that the Legislature has overlooked the special needs of children with disabilities in planning funding reforms.  In addition, the brief cites concerns that the current state budget grossly underfunds paraeducators, who are estimated to provide nearly 60% of direct instruction to special education students in Washington State. 
“Special education funding in Washington is uncoupled from the true costs of educating students with disabilities,” said Sue Elliott, executive director of The Arc of Washington State.  “The funding formula underestimates the true incidence of disability in the student population as well as the actual amounts that school districts must spend to meet their needs.” 
Two reports to the state legislature outline the need for standards and other considerations in funding paraeducators in Washington:  http://www.pesb.wa.gov/home/para-work-group.
A report citing some of the inadequacies of the current public education system to address the needs of students with disabilities was published in November 2014 by the Governor’s Office of the Education Ombuds, available at http://oeo.wa.gov/wp-content/uploads/SpecialEdTaskForce-Report_Nov2014.pdf The report recommended a Blue Ribbon Commission to tackle the unmet needs of vulnerable students with disabilities, creating an expert body that would lead a coordinated multi-agency, cross-disciplinary approach within the education system. 
“Special education funding has eluded reforms in many important ways over the years. Classrooms designed in ways that are inaccessible to students with disabilities negatively impact all students, and, moreover, lead to poor educational outcomes for students with disabilities,” said Stacy Gillett, Executive Director for The Arc of King County.

The Arc of Washington State and The Arc of King County promotes and protects the human rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and actively supports their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes.


Anonymous said…
SPS budgets over 150 million dollars per school year for SPED , it's not a money issue. It's purely mismanagement.

Lynn said…
The plaintiff's 2016 post-budget filing in the McCleary case was filed today.
mirmac1 said…
Geez, you're numbers are wrong. Next year's budget is $82M at the school level. As for Central office, with the exception of related service providers, that's money down the tubes.
Anonymous said…
What are the 2016-17 numbers when you add together the SPED students general educational funding and the supplemental SPED allocation ? Don't schools get money from both of those buckets?

I'm not sure what type of budgeting methodology SPS uses, but when you look at the break down by each school building, the numbers exceeds $82 million. then there's a 5-8 line million for outside services. The 2015-2016 numbers were around $150 million and you saying the 2016-2017 budget is only $82 million for both SPED and Gen Ed allocations?

Can post a link to where you are getting these amounts.

SPED Parent
Anonymous said…
I just went back and checked the numbers, for 2015-2016 the SPED budget was $117,683,250 and I believe they did a deep dive into the contingency funds around 3-5 million, so add that on. I think the school by school totals for SPED student funding is right at around $150 million.

There is also the issue of GEN ED funding,these students are Gen Ed first which is at least $6,000 @ 7200 students = $43 million

I think for 2015-2016 we will see the final all in number to be around 160 million dollars for SPED. We still need to see how all the law suits are settled.

These numbers from SPS documents, so I'm not sure of the accuracy. It's also worth mentioning that SPED spending has increased by around $25 million from 2014 levels.

source 2015-2016 budget Book updated 06162015v2.pdf

If you have more accurate information please post it and of coarse the source.


mirmac1 said…
Off the "Grid" tab in the 2016-17 WSS School Allocation Model. $83.4M for schools for next year. Last year was $71.3M. Last years Central SpEd budget was $40M.
Anonymous said…
So, are you saying for last year SPED was $71,300,000 plus $40,000,000 = $111,300,000 which is not counting the contingencies and not counting any GED ED funding?

If so, then that's inline with my numbers. Add in the other line items and it's at or above $150,000,000. I think $150 million is a fair estimate when you include the outside legal fees and settlements which don't seem to be included in the contingencies bucket.

Anonymous said…
Well GEEZ. About a third of those students who are in special ed - have no access to any general ed to speak of. So, it doesn't matter whether or not the 40million for regular ed is counted or not - the students don't get it. So really, at least 12 million isn't getting to them at all. The reality is - the 71mil - should be funded by both special ed and general ed students - because the students with disabilities are general-ed first - even when they are sitting in special ed, and even if they never sit in regular ed. That's called robbery in some places. At SPS, it's business as usual. Fund general ed with special ed dollars - and then complain about the students with disabilities.

Anonymous said…
I meant:
The reality is - the 71mil - should be funded by both special ed and general ed dollars - because the students with disabilities are general-ed students first - even when they are sitting in special ed, and even if they never sit in regular ed at all. (and no, eating lunch in the cafeteria and playing outside on the recess court, doesn't count)

Anonymous said…
Speddie, Looks like you're being sarcastic. But you really do know that the district actually does count playing at recess and eating lunch in the cafeteria as general ed time, even when the special ed kids sit at their own table.And I agree with you that students who receive special education should be funded by both dollars. I think the $117 million dollar figure includes both gen ed and special ed funding.

The brief mentioned states that the district spent For K-12 special education, the district spent $85.4 million but received only $45.9 million in state funds. This leaves out about $11 million in federal funds. And it isn't clear how general ed funds are included.

GEEZ,your estimate of about $40 million for outside legal fees and settlements is so grossly overblown that it is laughable. Legal fees are not included in the special education budget. In addition, just so you get a correct picture of the extent of legal action attributable to special education, the OSPI website only has 3 due process decisions for the Seattle School District for 2013-2014 (it is hard to figure out from the reports when cases were filed.) My estimate of a parent's cost for a due process hearing is $40,000. I don't know what the district pays. Let's say they pay $50,000. That's a $150,000. Then there's OCR resolutions. Maybe three or four of those per year. And then there's state complaints. Maybe 7-10 per year. I am going to estimate that legal fees related to special education boil down to $500,000-$1 M per year at most. That total budget for the district for legal counsel is $5 M, which includes outside attorneys and includes all legal work, including employment and personal injury. Then you talk about settlements. Any settlement more than $250,000 would have to be approved by the board. Where do you get your number of $40 M annually for legal fees and settlements?


Anonymous said…
I never wrote that $40 million was for lawsuits ect. Re-read what I wrote, $117 million budget, 5-8m million in contingencies and around $43 million for the gen ed allocation for the special ed student population. I said the all in cost for the 7200 students is $150 million.

Anonymous said…
GL, please don't lecture me on due process or OSPI complaints, I have a vast amount of experience in the area. Also, why don't you ask the district for a copy of all the SPED settlement agreements and after your review you just might sing a different tune.

Furthermore, I'm speaking to the total cost for SPS and tax payers for SPED. I'm not trying to diminish the necessity for funding (as I wrote in my comment which was deleted) These students deserve an education and proper funding. I'm arguing that SPED problems are NOT due to a lack of funding, but the problems are due to a lack of intention, priorities and training.

Any and I mean any funds spent on legal action and settlements are dollars not being using for our students.

mirmac1 said…
As you see here on Pg 7, SPS spent less on SpEd in the last fiscal year than it budgeted (as is per usual)


The budgeted amount was $108M (just under the $111M I referenced above). Expenditures were in fact $95M. Your assertion that there were near $39M of "settlements" yada yada are ludicrous.

The matters of funding and cost accounting for SpEd is something I've tracked very closely for some years now.

Anonymous said…
Chico don't be discouraged, have some more wine.

Anonymous said…
Micheal crawl back under your rock.
Anonymous said…
GL - not sure how I sounded sarcastic. It wasn't intentional. Here's the facts. Some funding numbers are thrown around which we are led to believe is "the cost of special ed". This happens regularly. It's always a big number. It's always blamed at eating into other things. It's always noted to be "growing", usually "growing out of control".

Here's what we don't know. 1. What does the "special ed funding" number that is bandied about in any conversation actually fund? What are we talking about? (I think they're talking about special ed teachers, and staff, and some tiny amount of curriculum, materials, and a big army of administrators. BUT, maybe the number also talking about any money that special education students need that other kids also need - general educators, janitors, lots of other stuff. Is that included too? In the "cost of special education"???)

2. What else do special ed students get? If we didn't include the "other stuff" kids with disabilities need in the big number, that all other students also need, is that included in "general ed" money? And finally - how is that "other/general-ed money" prorated to special ed students who aren't there using those resources very much? Eg. If a student goes to "general ed" for 20 minutes a week, how are we "charging" the student for? 1 seat (1/25th) of the general ed teacher costs? Or a miniscule fraction reflecting the miniscule seating, something like 1/1,000th of a general ed teacher cost. If a student isn't there often, and his seat has been filled (eg, the class is overloaded). How is that billed out? In that case - the student receives an inferior education - because the class has been filled anticipating his usual placement in special ed. Should he have to pay full fare for that time? You can see the "cost" of special education students isn't so easy to determine. But it would be good for the district to disclose how it calculates "cost".

3. After the 2 questions above are answered - (eg. where is the money spent) then we need to know where the money comes from...
The state found in the "special ed underfunding lawsuit" - that districts like Seattle couldn't account for their funds. That is - they knew how much the total for special education students was - but they didn't ever fund them with general education dollars. Districts, like Seattle, expect to fund special education students solely with special education "excess cost" funding. Because the district essentially strips students with disabilities of regular education funds - it looks like special ed costs a whole lot. The reality is - general education funding is supposed to fund special education too, and that is now the legislature funded special education in the first place.

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