This module describes a proactive approach to funding school-based speech-language pathology and audiology services.
If school-based speech-language pathologists and audiologists are to be effective advocates for workload reform, early intervention services, high quality professional development and evidence based practice, they will need to understand how public education is funded and how this funding ultimately affects their practice. The purpose of this module is to trace the different ways that money flows from the federal government to a local district’s special education program.
Under the Constitution, the state is responsible for K-12 education. State and local governments provide about 90% of public education funding. The federal government grants additional assistance to states and schools for very specific purposes. Local districts often carry the largest financial responsibility, although distributions vary widely by states. In 2006, the federal government contributed an average of 8.5% to local public education funding. The average state contribution was 48.7% while the share of local responsibility averaged 42.8%. Source: Revenues and Expenditures for Public Elementary and Secondary Education, Table 1(2006). National Center for Education Statistics.
Federal special education funding comes primarily from three sources: ESEA, IDEA, and ARRA. ESEA provides categorical funding to support student achievement in low income areas. IDEA accounts for the bulk of the federal government’s ongoing contribution to special education. ARRA gives a temporary stimulus boost to education through existing funding categories.
The primary source of federal K-12 support began in 1965 with the enactment of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). ESEA authorizes grants for elementary and secondary school programs for children of low-income families; school library resources, textbooks and other instructional materials; supplemental education centers and services; strengthening state education agencies; education research; and professional development for teachers. The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) is a reauthorization of ESEA. Funds from both Title I and Title III can be used to fund speech-language pathologists and audiologist if they focus on serving low income children and youth and those who are learning English.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) ensures services to children with disabilities. IDEA governs how states and public agencies provide early intervention, special education and related services to children and youth. Infants and toddlers with disabilities (birth-2) and their families receive early intervention services under IDEA Part C. Children and youth (ages 3-21) receive special education and related services under IDEA Part B. Total IDEA state allocation is split between Parts B and C. The state distributes the funds to the local systems to be used in accordance with state and federal law. The state has the option to reserve a small portion of the total federal allocations for discretionary purposes.
Up to 15% of special education funds may also be used to support early intervening services for low achieving and at risk students. Many districts are now using this provision to fund their Response to Intervention (RtI) efforts.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA, Recovery Act) provided approximately $100 billion to the U.S. Department of Education with the goal of delivering emergency education funding to states in response to catastrophic budget shortfalls. Funds were to be distributed between 7/2009 and 9/2011 primarily through three existing funding mechanisms: state stabilization funds, IDEA: Parts B & C and ESEA, Title 1.
State allocation formulas vary and are dependent on the local district’s tax structure. Equalization is not guaranteed and there is a wide disparity in funding in some geographical areas.
State’s typically use one of the following five funding formulas to calculate contributions to local districts:
Local funding formulas vary widely and district budgets rely heavily on local revenues. Technically, there are no unfunded federal "mandates." Each federal education law is conditioned on a state’s decision to accept federal funds. The federal law applies only when a state voluntarily chooses to accept federal funds. Any state that does not want to abide by a federal program's requirements can choose not to accept the federal funds associated with that program. Many states and districts accept the requirements and then find that state and federal funding is insufficient to cover expenses. In these cases, local districts must transfer money from the general fund to pay expenses. This practice is often termed “encroachment” and can cause tension between general education and special education programs.
IDEA does not fully fund special education programs and services. Although Congress authorized 40% of average per pupil expenditure in the state; appropriations have been at approximately 20%. The economic downturn has caused serious shortfalls in many state’s and district’s forcing severe cuts to general and special education funding. ou may want to investigate how the economic downturn is affecting your local district.
Congress annually appropriates funds intended to help states cover the cost of medical assistance to low income individuals. Medicaid is often an important source of revenue for local school districts.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services authorizes the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) to distribute Medicaid funds to states. Funds are allocated to each state to match state expenditures for the cost of medical assistance. The matching rates are determined by a formula tied to state per capita income. States may or may not require local education agencies or districts to bill for Medicaid services. If schools do participate, a system for billing is established. States can retain a percentage for administrative costs. School districts place funds in the school budget according to state and/or local policy.Each state has specific requirements for how a local district may use funds and the local district determines how the funds will reach related service providers.
Each state provides a list of permissible expenditures. Funds may be used for IEP implementation, school health services, salaries for service providers, assistive technology equipment, hearing assistance technology, professional development and instructional supplies, and materials and software. You could investigate to see if your local districts receive Medicaid funds, and, if so, how they use the money.
Districts determine the standards for and costs of providing IEP mandated speech and language services using restricted special education funds. In addition, districts may also choose to implement and fund unmandated services for students without identified disabilities using money from the general fund.
SLPs and audiologists who explicitly demonstrate the value of their services to administrators, general and special education are more likely to receive the resources that they need.
School-based speech-language pathologists and audiologists can successfully advocate for policies and resources that will allow them to provide effective services to children and youth and their families. By understanding how public funding flows into a district and how the district distributes the funding, they can better access educational dollars.
Congratulations in completing the last module in the eight module series on Coding, Reimbursement, and Advocacy.