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Special Education Featured in Some Facets of Election

The prospect of federal vouchers for students with disabilities seems to have dimmed for now because of Gov. Mitt Romney's defeat in the presidential election Tuesday. But in pockets across the country, voters took action in other ways that will directly affect special education students.

In St. Louis County, Mo., for example, voters approved a tax increase for the special school district that serves about 25,000 students with disabilities in 22 school districts in the county, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.

District Superintendent John Cary told the paper he knew it would be a hard sell considering the still-shaky state of the economy. The measure calls for a 19-cent tax increase per $100 of assessed property valuation, yielding an increase in taxes on a $150,000 house in the area by $54.15 a year, the paper reported.

Raising property taxes to pay for special education services would maintain services for a growing pool of students with autism and job-training programs, update the district's technology, provide more competitive salaries for teachers and staff, and pay for repairs and renovations of district buildings. District projections are that the additional tax revenue will keep the district adequately funded for at least six years, the Post-Dispatch said.

Cary posted a thank-you message on the district's website Wednesday that features some of the students the money is set to benefit.

Tax hikes in other parts of the country will pay for school renovations and repairs that also will make them more accessible to students with disabilities. These include measures in Portland, Ore., Houston, and Oakland, Calif., although all three are part of larger construction plans.

The vote to allow charter schools in Washington state could affect students with disabilities, if schools in other states are any indication. Earlier this year, the Government Accountability Office looked into charter school admission policies to discern how inclusive they are and found wide variation.

One other election-related note: While the composition of Congress remains unchanged, and the fiscal cliff still looms, U.S. Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., told my colleague Alyson Klein over at the Politics K-12 blog that he'll work hard to preserve special education spending in the months to come.

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