Cost analysis of three southwest Virginia special education programs

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Virginia Tech

School funding is one of the most critical issues in public education today. Jordan & Lyons (1992) have predicted that the great debate of the 1990s will be over what proportion of available funds should be spent on programs for special-needs students. Special education has held a prominent place in fiscal discussions and analyses since the passage of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975.

The Education for All Handicapped Children Act (reauthorized as Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 1990) required special educational programs and services for disabled students and provided a funding mechanism to assist states who chose to participate in this discretionary grant program.

Given the dramatic rise in expenditures on those special education programs, policy-makers at all levels require cost and fiscal policy information to make informed decisions regarding the provision of special education services (Jordan & Lyons, 1992; Center for Special Education Finance, 1993). To meet that need, the Center for Special Education Finance was funded by the U.S. Department of Education to address fiscal issues including compilation of special education expenditure statistics (Council of Administrators of Special Education, 1993). The current study offered a significant contribution to that national objective.

The cost analysis method introduced in this study, called the Moche Cost Analysis of Public Education or CAPE Model, provided greater sensitivity, accuracy, and flexibility than prior methods. It responded to changing service delivery models emerging from the education reform and restructuring movements.

The CAPE Model was used to examine and compare costs of regular elementary education, regular secondary education, elementary special education, and secondary special education. Special education costs also were compared across disability categories and service delivery environments.

CAPE can be adapted easily to identify expenditures by building level and programs other than special education. Results can be customized for comparison with state funding formulas. CAPE calculations can be completed manually or through use of the Moche CAPE computer spreadsheet program (Moche, 1995).

disabilities, expenditures, finance