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Journal Issue: Special Education for Students with Disabilities Volume 6 Number 1 Spring 1996

Financing Special Education
Thomas B. Parrish Jay G. Chambers


The growth in special education populations and costs, along with competing demands for limited resources, has led to widespread efforts to reform special education finance. New approaches, like census-based funding, offer added flexibility to local decision makers, but the effectiveness of alternative services delivered in the general education classroom are as yet unproven. (See the article by Hocutt in this journal issue.)

In this era of scarce resources, increased demand for services, and heightened scrutiny of education, concepts of accountability are more important than ever. As more states, and perhaps the federal government, relax traditional accountability measures to allow for more flexibility and freedom in the use of special education funds, what will replace them? Even advocates who support enhanced flexibility in the use of special education funds express concerns about replacing traditional accountability measures with simple trust.

At the same time, traditional accountability mechanisms have been more concerned with the legal use of funds than with whether they are being used well. If accountability systems were devised and implemented that could clearly measure the extent to which the children for whom these dollars are intended are making educational progress, then the linkage between special education eligibility, student counts, and funding would certainly be less important. The development of such results-based accountability systems may well be one of the most critical components in the movement to revise special education finance policies.