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Special Education Enrollment and Funding: A C-SPAN Discussion (Video)

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Federal data show a recent uptick in the number of students enrolled in special education—an increase that's partially driven by more students being identified as having autism.

That news, and what it means for schools, prompted the following C-SPAN segment with Education Week's Christina Samuels:

In her May 16 appearance on the show, Samuels touched on many of today's most pressing issues related to special education, which go beyond just rising enrollment.

She discussed federal funding for special education, which amounts to about $12 billion a year, and how that money is doled out to states. 

"[How the department sends money to states] is the most complicated formula," said Samuels. "But it should be noted that federal money is a tiny fraction of special education costs. States and localities are paying far more."

Samuels, who authors the On Special Education blog, also addressed the rise in autism prevalence, the languished reauthorization of IDEA, and some of the different schooling options parents have for children with special needs.

C-SPAN callers shared their personal experiences as parents or educators of students with special needs and Samuels fielded their questions and concerns.

In response to one common argument, that special education "takes too much needed money from regular curricula," Samuels had this to say:

"I understand that argument, but I would say that special education students are students too. Sometimes there can be a concern that ... these students are interlopers in the classroom. They're not. They are students in the district who have a particular need that the law says should be met in a certain way."


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