Report: Vermont Spending Way Too Much On Special Education

by Rob Roper

This week at the State House, Tammy Kolbe, an Assistant Professor at the University of Vermont, spoke to a joint meeting of the House and Senate Education Committees on the topic of special education. The report, Study of Vermont State Funding for Special Education, concludes:

For FY 2016, on average, supervisory unions and school districts spent an additional $21,840 per special education student, over and above base per-pupil funding for general education [which is currently about $15,000]. Spending per IEP had increased 8%, or $1,683, since FY 2014. This level of spending translates into an additional $2,971 per K-12 resident ADM. 

This is about twice what we should be spending based on what other states are spending and achieving around the nation and the New England region. According to this report, we should be spending between $11,000 and $15,000 on average per special needs student. Roughly 13,000 of Vermont’s 77,000 K-12 students (16%) are identified as “special needs.”

The report cites misplaced incentives in the current system to identify and categorize students as special needs (ie. Schools can generate more money the more kids they identify as special needs), and the current system discourages cost containment.

The recommendation was to move to a “census based funding model” that could result in savings of nearly half of current spending levels while giving local schools more control and greater efficiency regarding how special education dollars are spent.

Based on findings our census-based funding model simulations, a grant amount of $930- $985 per student should provide adequate supplemental funding to support supervisory unions’ special education programs. This is about half of what supervisory unions receive, on average, from the state on a per student basis currently.

Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Rollinson January 12, 2018 at 10:09 pm

How can one out of seven be “special need” ? It must be a broad and loose category . Tighten up the parameters of the definition and the problem is reduced. It might make a lot of kids happier to not carry that label.


Martha Stretton January 13, 2018 at 1:19 am

Perhaps the legislature should consider a capitation model like the one they are trying to force on Vermonters for health care – instead of OneCare Vermont it could be OneEducate Vermont – and it could be an AEO (Accountable Education Organization).


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