Governor Dannel Malloy’s budget proposal for the FY 2018–2019 biennium disentangles special education funding from the Education Cost Sharing (ECS) grant by reducing the ECS foundation amount by 22 percent, which is equal to the total amount of the ECS grant that Connecticut currently reports to the U.S. Department of Education is attributable to special education.
The proposal also includes a $10 million increase in special education allocations over FY’17, which is the approximate amount that state special education funding was reduced by in the 2016 Connecticut legislative session. The additional funding helps to ensure Connecticut’s compliance with the federal Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA), which requires that a state not reduce its support for special education from the prior year’s level, known as the maintenance of support requirement.
In addition, the governor’s proposal moves funding from the Excess Cost grant line item into the new Special Education Grant. The total amount of the new grant, comprised of the aforementioned portion of ECS, Excess Cost, and the additional $10 million dollars, is approximately $597.6 million. The governor proposes distributing this aid on a sliding scale of 0 percent to approximately 54 percent, based on a town’s relative need as measured by a ranking of each town’s adjusted equalized net grand list per capita, which serves as a proxy for a community’s ability to pay special education costs from local sources.
The Connecticut School Finance Project has prepared an independent analysis examining these proposed changes and how they align with six key principles and practices all special education finance systems should follow, based on a comprehensive 50-state survey examining state special education finance models.