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South Carolina Entitled to Hearing on Special Education Funding

South Carolina scored a victory in court last week when a federal court said that the U.S. Department of Education would have to hear the state's appeal of a decision to cut its special education funding.

Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, states are not allowed to cut their special education funding from year to year without permission from the U.S. Department of Education. South Carolina made cuts in three academic years, earning it a $36 million penalty in federal special education funds that was set to stay in place permanently.

However, Congress tweaked the rules last month, and now the penalty only lasts as long as a state was out of compliance with funding mandates.

The state is protesting the fact that it had to pay any penalty at all, but the Education Department refused to hear its complaint, saying that the IDEA does not have a provision for such a hearing. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision, however, says that the Education Department must at least hear the state out.

"We've been partially exonerated," South Carolina Superintendent of Education Mick Zais told the Associated Press. "We contended all along we were entitled to a hearing and that Secretary Duncan acted improperly when he denied us a hearing."

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