The federal government is increasing the budget for special education services and South Carolina will receive a portion of the funds. Since the 1970’s, school districts have been required to provide certain services that students with disabilities need to meet basic goals. The federal government is supposed to provide 40% of the cost of special education services, but, historically, the federal government has only provided about 22% of the cost of special education. Instead, states and some local school districts pay the costs. However, even when federal government does provide the funds for special education, a few school districts in South Carolina have not been spending all the funds provided. Instead, they’ve sought waivers from the obligation to spend it all. The reasons why remain unclear.
School funding issues can be complicated. Regardless of where the funds are coming from, our focus is on assisting students in receiving the primary education and training needed for continued education, independent living and participation in the work force. School districts are required to provide special needs students with the services needed to achieve these goals. If a school has denied your child any of these services because of insufficient budget, ask them to verify that it has used all its federal funds. Additionally, ask whether unused funds from other budgets, programs or school districts can be used. Our goal is not to seek the most expensive programs or services, but rather to obtain adequate services. If your child has special needs, a school cannot justify its denials of services on the basis that it does not have the funds needed.
If you are having an issue with your child’s school district, South Carolina Legal Services may be able to help. You can apply for our free legal services by calling 1-888-346-5592 or online at https://www.lawhelp.org/sc/online-intake.