ammy Kolbe’s (CESS) new work paper examines the federal government’s practices in granting special education. UVM Photo
created by Joshua Defibaugh, UVM’s Office of Research In the campaign tour in 2020 the president Joe Biden said he would pay for Federal government’s obligation in the amount of $38 billion that is required to fund extra-special education programs for children who have disabilities. In the first two years in presidency Biden-Harris administration made steps to fulfill this pledge by increasing federal education funding by 15.6 percent. While the increase in federal funding for special education might seem as a positive step however, a team of researchers led by University of Vermont professor Tammy Kolbe finds that federal funding for special education isn’t being directed to the areas where it is most needed.
A new work paper has been released by the Annenberg Center at Brown University and co-authored by UVM’s Kolbe (CESS), Elizabeth Dhuey from the University of Toronto Scarborough, and Sara Menlove Doutre from WestEd discovered that the formula that is used to allocate federal funds to states to fund special education programs results in huge and alarming differences.
“There’s been a long-standing conversation about the fact that the federal government should provide more money for special education, and the Biden-Harris administration is responding to this need,” Kolbe stated during an interview. “Our argument is: Adding more money is important, but so is ensuring that the dollars get to places where they are most needed.”
Kolbe is an associate professor at the College of Education and Social Services With a research interest in the resources and costs involved in effectively implementation of policies and programs within the PK-16 educational institutions.
“A focus of my recent work is federal and state funding for special education programs, which is essential to how we pay for services and support for students with disabilities in schools,” Kolbe stated. “The new paper is part of an effort to evaluate how the federal government provides funding to states and districts for special education.”
Kolbe along with the team looked into Kolbe and her team analyzed the Individuals with Disabilities (IDEA) Act which ensures that students with disabilities receive instruction that is tailored to their specific needs.
The study, “Unequal & Increasingly Unfair: How Federal Policy Creates Disparities in Special Education Funding,” discovered that, in general, “states with proportionally larger populations of children and children living in poverty, children identified for special education, and non-White and Black children receive fewer federal dollars, both per pupil and per student receiving special education.”
“At a minimum, we would hope that all states received similar amounts of federal funding per student, and ideally, funding is allocated progressively, ensuring that more dollars go to places with higher levels of need and cost, ” Kolbe stated. “The current federal formula does not do that. States receive extremely different amount of federal funds per pupil, and states which have greater need do not get more funds.”
It is important to note that the IDEA Act, which was approved in 1990 and was reauthorized by 1997, hasn’t seen its formula changed since 1999. The federal government uses figures from the year 2005 for population. The study reveals that modifications made to this formula during 1999 led to more equitable allocation of special education funds.
“When the formula was redesigned, they moved from allocating dollars based on the count of children in a state that qualified for special education to what they called population-based measure, which was a census-based count of children and count of children in poverty,” Kolbe stated. “The new formula also provided protections for states that were small and might have seen their funding cut under the new formula based on population. But, when they did this, funding wasn’t dependent on the need of different states. among states.”
The paper of the past provides policies simulations that could be utilized to enhance the efficiency that the IDEA Act’s formula. The simulations consider the adjustment of federal funding to states according to the cost of education and the number of students who receive special education in a particular state, and allotting funds based on the degree of economic disadvantage within the state.
Kolbe as well as her group have also been actively involved in conducting other research that is relevant to policy regarding special education funding, for instance, in Vermont. A report from 2017 by Kolbe along with her CESS co-worker Kieran Killeen resulted in modifications the formula used in Vermont’s Special Education funding. These changes are scheduled to take the state in 2023.
In the end, Kolbe wants to inform the nation about the ways to ensure that schools have enough resources for students with disabilities.