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Senate Committee Reinforces Rules About District Special Ed. Spending

When the full U.S. Senate budget committee hashed out its proposal for the 2013 fiscal year on Thursday, the group preserved boosts to special education spending proposed by a Senate subcommittee earlier this week.

The committee also built in language about school district special education budgets that has been the source of angst and elation over the course of the last year: so-called "maintenance of effort" for districts. Maintenance of effort clauses exist to buffer students from losing services they need when government budgets fluctuate.

To recap, the U.S. Department of Education said in 2011 that districts could cut special education spending in a given year, whether or not the funding changes were covered by exceptions to built into federal disability education law, and that districts wouldn't have to resume spending at the previously higher level. They could use the lower rate of spending as their new benchmark for future special education budgeting.

The agency took that change in policy back earlier this year, however.

"After further review, we have determined that the level of effort that a [school district] must meet in the year after it fails to maintain effort is the level of effort that it should have met in the prior year, and not the [district's] actual expenditures. We are, therefore, withdrawing the letter," wrote Alexa Posny, the assistant secretary for the office of special education, and Melody Musgrove, director of the office of special education programs in the April letter.

In the bill passed by the committee this week, that requirement was firmed up further. You can read it for yourself in the bill below.

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