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Preschool Special Education Would Get Small Boost Under Federal Budget Plan

Special education spending for school aged-children would hold steady, but spending for infants and children under 5 would see a modest boost under the White House's proposed budget for fiscal year 2017, released on Feb. 9. 

Students ages 6-21 currently receive the bulk of federal special education dollars, and that wouldn't change under the proposed spending plan, which would hold overall special education spending steady at $11.9 billion, the same as the previous fiscal year. 

An additional $35 million would be allocated to services for children ages 3 to 5, bringing the total proposal to about $403 million. Those children are served under Section 619 of the federal special education law.

For infants and children through age 2, the allocation would rise $45 million, to about $504 million for fiscal 2017. Spending on support for very young children with disabilities is handled under Part C of the IDEA. In addition to giving more money to each state, the Education Department said in its budget justification document that the additional Part C funds would also be used for a competitive-grant program of up to $15 million to support model programs in early screening, referral, and early intervention.

If approved by Congress, these special preschool programs would see a boost in spending for the second year in a row. The White House proposal could be read as an indication of the administration's continuing interest in supporting programs for young children, including those with disabilities: Late last year, the department released guidance to states on creating inclusive early-education programs.

Gifted Education to See Level Funding Under Proposed 2017 Budget

Also under the proposed budget, the Jacob K. Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Program, which pays for research on increasing the ranks of underrepresented students in gifted education, would be level-funded at $12 million. 

The proposed budget would also provide a $10 million increase, to about $54 million, to support more model demonstration programs. In justifying the expense, the Education Department said there's not enough research in evidence-based interventions for students with the most intensive needs.

"Few schools or programs can successfully implement evidence-based practices without detailed implementation strategies. Research studies, however, do not typically address what it takes to implement and sustain a practice in typical early intervention, preschool, classroom and school settings," said the department document. Federal officials would like to spend $40 million over four years for this effort.


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