Thursday, March 28, 2013

State Maintenance of Effort Rule Gets Congressional Tweak

By Christina Samuels from On Special Education

By guest blogger Alyson Klein. Crossposted from Politics K-12.

States that run afoul of federal rules for special education funding will be punished—though not forever—under a technical, but important tweak to state maintenance of effort under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The change, which was crafted with the help of the U.S. Department of Education, was included in the giant spending bill for the rest of this fiscal year (better known in Inside the Beltway as a continuing resolution, or CR) that Congress passed this month.

Under maintenance of effort—or MOE, in wonky Washingtonspeak—states can't cut their own education spending below whatever amount they spent the previous year and still tap federal dollars for special education under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, unless they get special permission from the department.

Keeping up special education spending is usually not a problem for states, but it became an issueduring the recent budget recession.

The most prominent example by far? South Carolina, which has actually sued the Education Department in connection with this issue. The department withheld $36 million in special education funding from the Palmetto State last October. And that reduction was slated to stay in place permanently, until Congress and the administration intervened.

The Obama administration and lawmakers on Capitol Hill, including U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, the chairman of the panel that oversees education spending, added a provision to the recent spending legislation clarifying that while states that are out of compliance with the law will still see their funding reduced, that cut won't be in place in permanently. Instead, the reduction would just be for the year (or years) that the state was out of compliance and didn't get a waiver. Once the problem had been fixed, the state could go back to its regular spending levels.

Read more HERE.
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