A study of educational program costs for handicapped students - Frederick County (MD) Public Schools

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

With the passage of P.L.94-142, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975, a national statement was made regarding the rights of handicapped students to a free, appropriate education. Since passage of the law, the cost of implementing P.L.94-142 has been a topic of concern for policymakers, school administrators and taxpayers. The rising cost of special and general education has placed a greater emphasis on accountability for the quality of the programs to justify the expenditures. Thus, the need for cost analysis in education is becoming more important as the competition with other governmental agencies for available funds becomes more acute.

Previous studies of special education finance related to cost accounting have indicated the difficulties in gathering accurate data on a uniform basis. As evidenced in this study, not all expenditures were properly charged to special education. When this occurs, benefits of cost analysis are diminished by the inaccuracy. An effective cost analysis system should be accurate, comprehensive and precise, and should not be cumbersome.

The Larson Model (1985) can be used to calculate the cost of individual programs and services, and the aggregate costs by handicapping condition or environment. The purpose of this study was to test an instrument that would provide a descriptive cost analysis of the special education programs and services in Frederick County, Maryland, Public Schools during the 1984-85 school year. Per pupil costs were determined by environment or level of service as defined by the Maryland State Bylaw Continuum of Services for special education. This study provides additional testing and development of a common framework or model for descriptive cost analysis of public special education programs and services by local educational agencies.