Special Education Predictable Cost Cooperative
Currently, Connecticut is one of only four states with no system for funding all of its roughly 77,000 students who require some special education services. As a result, special education costs for Connecticut’s public schools have become unpredictable, making it difficult for districts to plan budgets that meet the needs of all the students they serve. This unpredictability is why Connecticut must improve how it funds special education, and implement a system that benefits all students and ensures adequate funding for students with disabilities—no matter what their needs are.
Our solution to Connecticut’s special education funding challenges is the development and implementation of a Special Education Predictable Cost Cooperative (the Co-op). The Co-op is a special education finance system that allows the state and local governments to share in special education costs and keep decisions and delivery of special education services local. The Co-op's purpose is not to either raise or lower a district's special education costs. Rather, the purpose of the Co-op is to make districts' special education costs more predictable.
How the Co-op Works
Using a cooperative-type model, the Co-op makes special education costs predictable for districts and towns, allowing for better budget planning. The Co-op achieves this predictability by aggregating special education costs together at the state level to leverage the fact that, on a statewide basis, special education costs are predictable, even though they are frequently volatile at the district level.
How the Co-op is Funded
Local governments and the State of Connecticut will both make contributions to fund the Co-op. The State’s contribution will come from reallocating the Excess Cost grant and special education portion of the Education Cost Sharing (ECS) grant to the Co-op. The Co-op will not raise the total cost of special education statewide nor will it reduce state aid for special education.
Local governments will make a Community Contribution to the Co-op for each special education student who lives in their town. A Community Contribution will be calculated for each school district and is based on:
- The number of special education students enrolled in the school district;
- The school district’s past special education costs; and
- An equity adjustment made based on the municipality’s ability to pay.
It’s also important to note that under the Co-op:
- All communities will receive some state support for special education services;
- All communities’ contributions will be lower than their actual per pupil special education costs; and
- All districts will be reimbursed for 100 percent of their actual special education costs in the current year.
How the Co-op Benefits Students
By creating predictability in special education costs, the Co-op benefits all students, whether they need special education services or not. All students benefit from the Co-op because it stabilizes general education funding and helps ensure districts don’t have to resort to dipping into their general education funding to pay for necessary special education services. Additionally, the predictability and stability created by the Co-op protects students with disabilities by ensuring adequate funding for special education services—even during financially uncertain times—and keeping decisions and delivery of those services local.
Below is a collection of resources with more information about the Co-op and how it will benefit all students, and help make special education costs predictable for districts and communities.