GREENVILLE, SC (FOX Carolina) — The federal government is failing the states when it comes to special education funding.
FOX Carolina Investigates found that about 50 years ago, Congress promised to fund 40% of the average cost of each special education student enrolled in a public school. But as of 2020, just over 13% of the cost was actually covered
“The idea of full funding is vital,” said RCAF South Carolina Director of Policy and Outreach Danni Bloom. “I mean, it’s a crisis without it.”
Bloom knows firsthand how dire the situation is when it comes to special education funding. Her 24-year-old son, Christian, has autism.
RCAF South Carolina is a group that advocates for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
“We write letters,” Bloom said. “We engage in legal defense.”
South Carolina should get about $600 million for its 100,000 IDEA-eligible students, but in reality it gets just over $200 million. That leaves a gap of $400 million.
“That’s $4,000 per student that we are short of funding,” Bloom said. “So when that happens, schools try to cover up the difference by cutting programs, programs that affect children with and without disabilities.”
For the Bloom family, the lack of funding meant they had to fight for resources that should have been readily available.
“There were many times when we needed special help to [Christian] and the schools weren’t funded enough to be able to provide that,” Bloom said.
Last year the Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention and Advancement reported 162 vacancies for special education teachers in South Carolina. He also found that vacancies for this category of teachers were growing faster than others.
Bloom said better funded programs could help.
“It’s difficult for us to recruit and retain teachers,” she said.
Last year, Washington lawmakers proposed the IDEA Full Funding Actwhich outlines a plan to achieve full funding over the next decade.
Bloom said she was hopeful, but wants lawmakers to hear this message:
“Start prioritizing our children, children with special needs,” she said. “We need Congress to follow through on the funding at the level it promised. Keep that promise.
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