The U.S. Department of Justice will investigate a complaint alleging that the Georgia Department of Education violates the Americans with Disabilities Act by using a school funding formula that encourages districts to unnecessarily segregate students with disabilities to receive more money, the Southern Poverty Law Center said last week.
The civil rights organization said it filed a complaint with the Justice Department over the issue in November.
"Too often, special needs children who have demonstrated significant progress in an integrated classroom are separated from their peers because it means the school district will receive more money," said Jerri Katzerman, the Southern Poverty Law Center's deputy legal director, in a statement. "We are pleased that the Department of Justice recognizes this problem, and is committed to ensuring these students have equal access to a quality education."
Matt Cardoza, a spokesman for the state Department of Education, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the agency had not received any word from the Justice Department and could not comment.
The Law Center said the Georgia General Assembly established the state's school funding policy—the 27-year-old Quality Basic Education Act—which provides this financial incentive for segregating students with disabilities.
"Students with disabilities often face discrimination by teachers and their peers due to assumptions about what it means to have a disability," Law Center staff attorney Jadine Johnson said. "Research shows that when students with and without disabilities are placed in the same classroom, they are better prepared to embrace diversity and inclusivity."