The U.S. Department of Education withheld $36 million in special education funds from South Carolina earlier this month, carrying out a penalty imposed on the state for cutting its own spending on special needs students three years ago.
In what may be a first-of-its-kind penalty, the feds used a provision in federal law that allows cutting a state's special education grant, permanently, if the state slashes its special education budget without the right justification. UPDATE: Kansas' state grant for special education was also cut this month, by about $2 million.
The $36 million cut represents about a 9 percent deduction in South Carolina's special education budget. It won't be felt this year, however.
State Superintendent Mick Zais convinced the South Carolina legislature to appropriate one-time funds in case of this scenario. So, "South Carolina students will not be harmed or denied services this school year because of the federal government's draconian cut," said Jay Ragley, South Carolina's director of the office of legislative affairs.
But the catch with the federal penalty: It goes on forever. In other words, South Carolina's budget will be cut by $36 million this year and every year going forward.
Read more of Nirvi Shah's On Special Education article HERE.