What is Sequestration and How It Affects Special Education

What is Sequestration and How It Affects Special EducationSpecial education seems to be caught in some kind of strange conundrum where, on the one hand, the federal government funds it, supports it, and legislates it and on the other hand, routinely slashes funding with barely a blink of the eye while still demanding compliance.

Sequestration is the most recent event to victimize special education. This unusual word, sequestration, identifies “a fiscal policy procedure adopted by Congress to deal with the federal budget deficit.” Or in simple terms, the government cancelled funds originally designated for special education as part of their efforts to cut spending across the board.

Because a bipartisan committee was unable to agree on any significant way to reduce the deficit, sequestration kicked in and allowed the ruthless automatic slashing of so-called “discretionary” spending. Special education, unfortunately, falls under that category in non-defense spending.

So what happens now? This spending cut will adversely affect the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)–comprised of special education students, teachers, and other professionals–to the tune of a staggering $1,053,600,000 or 28 percent of the overall cuts to education. This figure regresses to the 2005 level of spending for special education, which is a sad commentary on the fact that the IDEA and its constituents never did come close to receiving the originally authorized full funding, and now will receive substantially less.

What this means now for special education is even more cuts to necessary services, ironically forcing school districts to standards below federal stipulations for providing all students with free appropriate public education, including those with disabilities unless schools can come up with special local funding to address the massive shortfall. The present economy doesn’t smile kindly on that idea.

What this means for special education teachers is that as many as 15,000 could lose their jobs, forcing ineffective higher teacher-student ratios, and the trickle-down effect will likewise reduce services by other professionals.

To learn the fate of the sequestration on individual states, check this chart on IDEA Money Watch.