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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2013 - 2014 Regular Session


Posted: March 17, 2014 09:49 AM
From: Senator Patrick M. Browne
To: All Senate members
Subject: Special Education Funding Commission proposed legislation
I will be introducing legislation, along with Representative Bernie O’Neill, which will provide for the recommendations of the Special Education Funding Commission established pursuant to Act 3 of 2013.

Act 3 created a legislative commission to make recommendations to increase the effectiveness and accountability in the funding of special education services in Pennsylvania. The Commission members heard testimony for six months from over 50 witnesses at seven public hearings held throughout the state. Commission members’ considered complex issues and options for addressing systemic problems related to special education funding. The Commission issued and approved by unanimous vote its findings and recommendations on December 12, 2013.

The first and primary recommendation is the establishment of a new funding formula for the distribution of state general fund special education appropriations. Currently, state funding for special education is distributed based on an estimate that children with disabilities comprise 16 percent of the overall student population in each school district. This unnecessarily rigid formula does not accurately allocate state funding because it fails to take into account the actual number of students needing special education services or the type and intensity of support they require to succeed in school.

The recommended new formula follows the parameters contained in Act 3 for distributing any increase in special education funding over 2010-11 levels. The proposed formula includes the use of three cost categories for students receiving special education services, ranging from least intensive to most intensive. In addition, the formula reflects community levels of relative wealth, property tax effort, school district size and population density in order to ensure a fair and accurate distribution of funds. The new formula would be used only for NEW monies appropriated. In addition, hold harmless would apply to existing special education funding.
Also included in the Commission’s recommendations is the following:
  1. Charter/Cyber Charter schools: the Commission recommended to apply the same basic funding principles used in the recommended state formula for school districts payments to charter schools, with the distribution of new funding to be phased in over 3 years. Adjustments would be made to these payments for local costs differentials and charters would be required to provide substantiation for costs of category two and three students.
  2. Approved Private Schools: the Commission recommended that Approved Private Schools be eligible to receive unexpended funds from the prior fiscal year APS appropriation.
  3. Special Education Contingency Fund: the Commission recommended that the current “Contingency Fund” be renamed the “Extraordinary Cost Fund” and be used for per-student expenses exceeding $75,000. Instead of the current $150,000 cap, no school district would be entitled to receive more from the fund than its percentage of the total special education students in the state.

Please contact my office at 787-1349, if you have any questions related to the proposed legislation.

Introduced as SB1316