Our Reports

Improving How Connecticut Funds Special Education


Each day, more than 68,700 of the students who pass through the doors of Connecticut’s public schools require special education services, making up 13 percent of the state’s total public school enrollment. The individual learning needs of these students are wide-ranging and unique. As a result of these wide-ranging needs, the resources required to provide students with a “free appropriate public education” vary significantly, and often pose difficult planning and financial questions to Connecticut’s public schools.

The report examines the special education finance systems of all 50 states and finds Connecticut is one of only four states in the country that does not have a system for funding all special education students. Instead, Connecticut has “incorporated” funding for special education students into the “foundation” amount in the state’s main education equalization aid grant—the Education Cost Sharing (ECS) grant. Additionally, districts are partially reimbursed for extraordinary special education costs through the state’s Excess Cost grant. However, both mechanisms have significant limitations, which are explored in detail in the report.

Additionally, using the comprehensive 50-state survey examining state special education finance models, the report finds six key principles and practices all special education finance systems should follow. These best practices are:

  1. Differentiates funding based on student learning needs.
  2. Distributes state funding for special education equitably.
  3. Provides school districts with state funding that is consistent and make local expenses predictable.
  4. Controls costs.
  5. Provides school districts with flexibility and encourages innovation.
  6. Limits local financial responsibility for students with extraordinary needs.

The report finds Connecticut's current mechanisms for funding students with disabilities are not aligned to these six practices and provides an analysis of Connecticut’s alignment with each best practice. Additionally, the report provides recommendations for how Connecticut can better distribute funding to students with disabilities in a more consistent, predictable, and equitable manner that reflects the wide-ranging and unique needs of students.