Alabama has joined Iowa, Kansas, South Carolina, and West Virginia in requesting that the U.S. Department of Education allow the state to reduce the amount of money spent on special education due to an "unforeseen decline in the financial resources" of the state.
The one-page letter was submitted on Sept. 30, according to a spokesman for the Alabama State Department of Education.
The letter is requesting a waiver for fiscal year 2010, which has already ended. So, I am unsure what the federal Department of Education could do if, for some reason, it decided to decline this request. Force the state to distribute more money to districts in fiscal 2011 to make up for any cuts in fiscal 2010? Cut the state's federal support as punishment—which would only seem to make a bad situation worse? I'm seeking clarification on these questions.
Just a reminder of how these waiver requests work: states generally are not allowed to reduce the amount of money that they give to districts for special education funding. One exception can be created if the state is going through "exceptional or uncontrollable" circumstances, like a precipitous drop in state revenues. The waiver only is granted for one fiscal year at a time. You can read more details, including a link to a letter from the federal Education Department explaining the waiver process, at my blog entry from earlier this year.