Pennsylvania is increasingly underfunding special education, report finds

Pennsylvania is increasingly underfunding special education, report finds

The state of Pennsylvania has paid a decreasing share over the last decade of what it costs to educate students in special education, putting a heavier burden on local districts to make up the difference, according to a new report.

In the new analysis by the Education Law Center and the advocacy coalition PA Schools Work, Pennsylvania paid 32% of school districts’ special education costs in 2008-2009. In 2019-20, that figure had dropped to 22%. 

In that period, students identified as needing special education grew by 14%, “due in part to increases in autism eligibility and other specific developmental disabilities,” the report said. But as special education costs rose from $3 billion to $5.2 billion, state aid for special education grew by only $156 million to $1.1 billion while local districts doubled their own contributions, from $1.8 billion to $3.7 billion. The relatively small federal contribution also flatlined at around $400 million.

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