4. Special Education Overidentification Causes: Money

“Greene & Forster (2002) have reported on one “cause” of the exceptional growth of special education enrolments — financial incentives: “This report examines the effect state funding methods have on the number of students enrolled in special education. It finds that states with “bounty” funding systems provide financial incentives to schools to increase the identification of students with special needs by paying schools more for each additional student in special education. The authors find that those incentives are responsible for 62% of the increase in special education enrollment in those states over the past decade. Nationally, the report shows that this has led to roughly 390,000 children wrongly placed in special education programs at an annual cost of $2.3 billion. The authors also find that high-stakes testing, which has been suggested as an alternative culprit for the increase, has no significant effect on special education enrollment.”   cf. ,Financial Incentives for Special Education Placements

There is a larger process hidden and unexplored to the effect that federal, state and local monies are shifted by policy and opportunism.  When federal money is offered to states creative uses are found to make the money work for local districts.  When IDEA money came down, it encouraged putting more children in special education to collect for extra costs.  With the current economic shortages of school money now special education is one target for cutting expenses.  School administrators know how to make federal monies work for their districts.  Rarely if ever do states turn down federal money. 

An underlying cause is that well-intentioned administrators probably do not understand what to do with special needs children in the first place, so they see the problem as one of making ends meet.  Community and school pressures are ever present.

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