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Special Education Directors Fear Potential Budget Cuts

The still-looming specter of "sequestration"—congressional budget cuts that could take a slice out of most federal agency budgets— has the special education community on edge.

Results of a new survey by the Council for Exceptional Children show that special education directors still dealing with the effects of the economic downturn are almost universally concerned about the 8 percent budget cut the federal action—or inaction depending on how you look at it—will trigger. Sequestration will work like this. And though the House has taken some action to stave it off, their proposed alternative doesn't exactly have anyone jumping for joy.

The survey of more than 300 special education directors nationwide finds that 95 percent said the federal cuts will result in hiring freezes or layoffs.

Any loss in staff would be on top of what happened in some districts after federal stimulus dollars dried up: Districts dumped staff hired with that money.

While students with disabilities are supposed to be guaranteed services and supports listed in their education plans, it's hard to envision special education students completely sequestered (ahem) from the cuts. About 80 percent of directors said they would cut back on professional development, which could be especially problematic as states begin putting the new Common Core State Standards into practice. And 85 percent of directors also said that there will be cuts to budgets for buying resources and materials, such as technology.

You'll find some projections about how sequestration could affect special education in each state here, from IDEAMoneyWatch.org. All together, the cuts could total more than $1 billion if they kick in six months from now. Many other education programs would also be affected, including those for low-income students and early education offerings.

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