An example of why protections must be in place for special education funding

22 Apr

Federal law requires that schools do not reduce support for special education. School can reduce support, but if and when they do they face penalties. The Federal Government has never lived up to its obligation to pay for 40% of the costs of special education. This results in the view by some school officials that special education is an unfunded mandate.

Here’s a hint: education is an unfunded mandate. Education for all is required by law and not paid by the federal government.

Why write about this now? Because of a guest column to a small newspaper in Southern Illinois: Mark Lounsberry: Special-education costs can’t continue.

Mr. Lounsberry is a former president of their board of education. He decrys the costs of special education. In discussing laws which require localities to educate their students, he notes:

The most draining of these are the special-education statutes, both federal and state.

He notes:

They require costly individualized educational plans for the mentally, physically and learning-disabled. Failure to comply invites lawsuits and withdrawal of funding.

Yes, if they don’t educate special needs children they lose funding. If they don’t educate non special education students they will face lawsuits and loss of funding as well.

Mr. Lounsberry feels that behavior disorders are sapping the budget:

These days behavior disorders are included as a part of special-education programs. Most of these problems are a direct result of our crumbling family structure and have swelled the enrollment of special education.

Yes. Bad family structure leads to special education. Bruno Bettleheim is invoked too often in online discussions, in my opinion. But this time we are seeing shades of Bettleheim.

He also notes:

When our budget is reduced and the state does not meet its financial responsibility to our district, we still are required to meet 100 percent of the financial needs of our special-education students.

Small correction (OK, not small): they are required to meet the educational needs of their special education students, not their financial needs.

And, now for the value judgement:

For those not protected by mandate, including our best and brightest, who presumably will be our community leaders and problem solvers, the resources are disproportionately reduced.

Yes. Those who are not in special education are the “best”.

I can’t wait for one of them to grow up and take over the leadership position Mr. Lounsberry appears to leave vacant with his presence.

In case you think I’m stretching the value judgement statement above:

Our education tax dollars would be easier to manage if not burdened with expenses that are more suited for social welfare.

How did someone so ignorant about education become the president of the school board? Seriously?

OK, disabled children are a “burden” to him and do not deserve to be educated. Instead they are a social welfare situation. (why do I doubt he would be willing to pay tax money for the social welfare of the disabled?)

He concludes with:

Education budgets are voted down and local school boards are told to spend dollars more wisely while they have little control over how they must spend their money.

Spending money to educate children is spending it wisely, Mr. Lounsberry. Spending money to educate “the best” as well as the disabled.

This sort of ignorance is precisely why we had no education for the disabled for most of our history. It is only in my lifetime that we as a people recognized our responsibility. Without federal laws protecting special education funding, the Mr. Lounsberrys of the world would eject those with special needs to the (non existent) social welfare system.

By Matt Carey

7 Responses to “An example of why protections must be in place for special education funding”

  1. Sullivan (Matt Carey) April 22, 2013 at 23:31 #

    A previous comment by Mr. Lounsberry:

    We were created equal in the eyes of God, but we were all given different talents and skills. We are not all the same. Some of us are good at building businesses and some are good at working with their hands and some are just plain not motivated or talented to do either of those things. We should provide opportunities for success to be earned. Lasting opportunities do not come from government — citizens create them.

    I guess we are all created equal, with different skills, and all should have the opportunities for success to be earned. Except the disabled.

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) April 22, 2013 at 23:56 #

      If I am doing my math correctly, Mr. Lounsberry’s district is already spending less on special education than the national average.

      Typically, the average special education student costs about twice the regular education amount.

      Mr. Lounsberry states:

      Our entire special-education program consists of 191 students. The expense for this program is 23 percent of our total education fund budget. Transportation costs specific to special education needs is 27.5 percent of the total transportation budget. Our total costs to educate those 191 students is $2.26 million.

      $2.26M divided by 191 students is about $11,800 each.

      He states that his district spends $7,000 per regular education student. By the national average, his district would be spending $14k per special education student.

      I.e. his district is spending about 16% less per special education student than the national average, but this is already too much.

      It sounds scary to say, “only 191 student take up 23% of the budget”, but he left out an important data point: the total student population. When he talks about 191 students, he is talking about 14% of his student population (the total student population is 1380).

  2. Saraquill April 23, 2013 at 02:21 #

    (sarcasm) Educating special needs students makes absolutely no sense. It’s not like society has an interest in disabled children acquiring the skills needed to get employment and pay taxes. (end sarcasm)

    • stanley seigler April 26, 2013 at 06:11 #

      FACT not sarcasm:

  3. Lara Lohne April 23, 2013 at 05:57 #

    This just makes me want to cry. My son is just as smart as his NT peers. he can do all the same things they can do and he is making the same amount of progress that they are making. He has communication difficulties, yes, but nothing that can’t be worked around. Yes he has sensory issues and too much noise, stress or excitement can cause agitation and, if not handled appropriately a meltdown. He doesn’t come from a bad family, he is loved and is very happy and loving himself. He loves going to school and being with other children his own age, NT and non-NT alike. I am fortunate that we currently reside within the boundaries of a school that places just as much value on his education as his NT peers, but what happens if we have to move? Nobody at my son’s school considers him a burden, they all love him and think he is awesome because he is happy and friendly and valued. I hate to think what might happen if we end up in a school district with someone who feels the same way this man feels about special education students. And all this in the midst of the Autism Acceptance month too. It shows just how much work there is yet to do.

  4. Sandy Goodwick April 23, 2013 at 20:16 #

    Discrimination is embedded in American public education. I was born with a disability and had to ‘overcome’ the Dean of Students proposal that I not go into teaching because of my disability. Next, I had to ‘overcome’ the “suggestion” that I go into ‘special’ education. I did neither and taught general education for 21 years. I introduced ‘disability awareness’ and showed the power behind having a vulnerability like mine.

    Imagine my surprise when I start ‘special’ education coursework and read (in my first textbook) that my disability is regarded as “UNDESIRABLE”. I wrote the very well know authors a letter, rebutting their “research”. My letter went into their next edition, along with new insight. A similar thing happened in my NEXT course – I write a paper on “social/psychological” aspects affecting kids with disabilities such as mine and the professor informs me she will now START teaching about this new information.

    She was Chairman of her Division in the Council for Exceptional Children. Her dissertation was on “social/psychological” aspects of physical disability – yet she failed to learn about ‘kids like me’.

    Council for Exceptional Children has 33,000+ members. 11,000+ are on Facebook. Of 11,000 members on Facebook – *91* members are in CEC’s “Educators with Disabilities” caucus group. Less than 1% of their own membership contains People who self-identify as having a disability.

    WHY IS THIS? Why are there so few “educators with disabilities” within the HUGE ‘special education’ professional organization?
    1 – Because the organization STARTED from the point of view of kids with disabilities (and by default – ANYONE with disability) as “the Other” … “We will FIX you. WE have the expertise. Leave it to US.
    2 – Because there has never been educators with disabilities within education. Kate Rousmaniere wrote an essay on this very subject when she couldn’t FIND any. She wrote about the prejudice she found, instead.
    3 – Because teachers who question special education practices tend to be retaliated against. A teacher with a disability poses a real threat to the system, via having “dangerous memories” of disability experience. Teachers who fear retaliation learn to be silent and soon lose a perspective on what is important … as a result, kids experience neglect, problems become chronic.
    4 – Because public schools are notoriously bad in implementing the Americans with Disabilities act – and teachers needing accommodations are particularly at risk.
    5 – Because “diversity” excludes disability awareness. We celebrate days and honor people who’ve contributed to racial and ethnic progress … but few schools devote “equal time” to all other minorities, including ours.
    6 – Because even state teachers’ associations (who play a role in statewide curriculum) fail to see ‘us’. If they saw disability rights as a valid human right, if they saw teachers with disabilities as a valid group within their membership, they may need to adjust their attitude on “special” education … and there is too much pressure to NOT do this.


  1. Educating Children with Special Needs is worth Every 'Unfunded' Penny - April 28, 2013

    […] Read more at An example of why protections must be in place for special education funding. […]

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