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Special Education Could Suffer Billion-Dollar Automatic Cut

Across-the-board federal budget cuts could take a nearly $1 billion bite out of federal special education spending, with the bulk of that representing state grants for the education of school-age children with disabilities.

The automatic cuts, or sequestration, could come in January if Congress doesn't come up with a way to put the country on firmer fiscal footing, as my colleague Alyson Klein explains over at the Politics K-12 blog.

At a hearing this week in the Senate, Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, chairman of the education committee, shared a list of possible reductions that would be made to education and other programs if the automatic cuts are triggered in January.

The potential cuts to special education "could translate into the layoffs of more than 10,000 teachers, aides, and other staff who provide essential instruction and other support to 6.6 million children with disabilities," U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan testified this week.

By Harkin's estimations, based on a 7.8 percent across-the-board cut, IDEA grants to states would be reduced by $903 million. Another $64 million would be cut out of special education spending for preschool students, infants, and toddlers. Special education research, already cut in recent years, would lose another $4 million, the Council for Exceptional Children says.

The cuts would take effect during the 2013-14 school year.

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