On December 10, the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee released its report, The Status of Special Education for Gifted Students in the Commonwealth, an outcome of House Resolution 139. The Committee made the following recommendations to PDE/State Board:
- Consider encouraging the development of a Program Endorsement Certificate in gifted education.
- Consider limiting educators working in gifted education to those who hold instructional certificates in core subject areas.
- Explore options to facilitate online professional development for gifted educators.
- Consider granting waivers to school districts whose curriculum offerings are sufficient to meet the needs of gifted students.
- The State Board revise regulations that place unnecessary burdens on school districts, particularly with regard to required evaluations.
The full report, which includes all of the Committee’s findings and recommendations, can be accessed here.
Final Recommendations of Special Education Funding Formula Commission
On December 11, the Special Education Funding Formula Commission recommended that the General Assembly adopt a new formula for distributing state funding for special education in excess of 2010-11 levels. Since 2008-09, Pennsylvania has not increased special education funding.
The current funding formula does not match the needs of Pennsylvania students with the cost of providing those services. The “census formula” paid school districts based on calculations assuming that 15% of all students have mild disabilities and 1% have severe disabilities. Thus, the 15-member commission, created through Act 3 of 2013 was tasked with developing a system for allocating any new state special education funding in a manner that recognizes the actual number of physically- and mentally-challenged students in a school and the various levels of their need for services.
The new formula will include factors reflecting students’ needs based on three cost categories – low (category 1), moderate (category 2) and high (category 3). The formula will also include factors reflecting community differences such as market value/personal income aid ratio, equalized millage rate and small and rural school districts. The report also provides observations about additional improvements worth considering that were not within the Commission’s duties to recommend. These issues include local cost of living adjustments; hold harmless and minimum increase practices; transportation costs; long term cost projections; other programs for students with special needs that receive neither state nor federal funding; and student transience. The commission’s goals also included creating a formula that did not place undue burdens of administrative reporting on state or local education agencies while seeking to improve accuracy in distributing limited state resources. In addition, the formula does not create incentives to over-identify students with learning disabilities. The commission also determined that the special education reimbursements system for charter schools and cyber charter schools should receive similar reforms. For more information on the commission and to view the report, visit the Special Education Funding Formula Commission’s website