SC special education classrooms shorted $400M

The federal government is shortchanging states when it comes to funding special education.
Published: Sep. 20, 2022 at 6:57 PM EDT
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GREENVILLE, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - The federal government is shortchanging states when it comes to funding special education.

FOX Carolina Investigates found that about 50 years ago, Congress promised to fund 40% of the average cost for every special education student enrolled in a public school. But as of 2020, just over 13% percent of the cost has actually been covered

“Fully funding idea is vital,” said ARC South Carolina Director of Policy and Outreach Danni Bloom. “I mean, it’s a crisis without it.”

Bloom knows firsthand how dire the situation when it comes to funding special education. Her 24-year-old son, Christian, is autistic.

ARC South Carolina is a group that advocates for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“We’re writing letters,” Bloom said. “We’re engaging in legal advocacy.”

South Carolina should get about $600 million for its 100,000 IDEA-eligible students, but it reality it gets just over $200 million. That leaves a $400 million gap.

“That’s $4,000 per student that we’re lacking in funding,” Bloom said. “So when that happens, schools are working to cover the difference by cutting programs, programs that affect children with disabilities and without disabilities.”

For the bloom family, the funding gap meant they had to fight for resources that should have been readily available.

“There have been lots of times where we needed to have a special aide for [Christian] and the schools were not funded well enough to be able to provide that,” Bloom said.

Last year, the Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention and Advancement reported 162 special education teacher vacancies in South Carolina. It also found vacancies for that category of teachers was growing faster than others.

Bloom said better funded programs could help.

“It is difficult for us to recruit and retain teachers,” she said.

Last year, lawmakers in Washington proposed the IDEA Full Funding Act, which lays out a plan to achieve full funding over the next decade.

Bloom said she’s hopeful, but wants lawmakers to hear this message:

“Start prioritizing our children, children with special needs,” she said. “We need congress to actually follow through with funding at the level that they promised. Make good on that promise.”