The U.S. spends $34.1 billion on special education services, thanks in large part to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which guarantees all children with special health care needs and disabilities have access to a free and appropriate education. According to a recent report out from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) approximately 13% of public school students in the U.S., aged 3 to 21, qualify for services under IDEA—about seven million of the country’s 53.8 million students (see The Special Education Market: $34.1 Billion In Spending For 6.7 Million Children In 2015 and 13% Of Students Qualify For IDEA Services).
As part of the IDEA, children are determined eligible for special education services based on an assessment by the school district and then an individualized education program (IEP) is created. IEPs denote the specific special education services a child needs, as well as related medical services, such as occupational or physical therapy. In 2017, the United States Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the terms of IDEA mean that schools must provide more than minimum special education services for students with an IEP (see Supreme Court Decision Changes Standard Of IDEA-Compliant Special Education Services and Supreme Court Agrees To Hear Special Education Case To Settle Level Of Benefits Required By IDEA).
The 13% statistic above has held constant. In 2008, 6.6 million children and youth (13%) received special education services under IDEA (see 13% of Students Receive IDEA Special Education Services)—up from 5.1 million in 1995 (see Number of U.S. Students Receiving IDEA Special Education Services Increases by One Million Over 10 Years). The cost of providing special education services to children is at least $5,105 per children (see Medicaid Cost For Autism – The Impact Of Special Education Funds)—in addition to the $11,762 spent on public education per student (see Education Spending Per Student by State).
The result is that many individual school districts are struggling to meet these legal obligations by providing “a free and appropriate education” to children with special needs while living within their limited budgets. The National Council on Disability estimates that the Federal government is only providing half the funding that is required by law (see IDEA Series, Broken Promises: The Underfunding of IDEA). That financial stress is borne out by the recent findings that only 21 states are “meeting obligations” under IDEA (see Fewer Than Half Of States Meet Student Obligations Under Special Education Law)—most states are failing to ensure that local school districts complied with the law, and failed to transition students from school to college or work.
Many states leverage health care service funding in meeting these mandates. In 18 states, these services are administered by state Departments of Health (DOH)—with 12 states using the Department of Education and 20 states using a variety of social service departments (see Enrollment In IDEA Early Intervention Services Higher When Lead Agency Is Health-Focused). For the 18 states using their DOH, the added benefit seems to come from using health care (primary care was named specifically) to increase enrollment and provide funding. For example, the odds of enrollment in early intervention services were 2.4 times higher in states where a “health-focused” lead agency administers the program.
Special education has been, and will continue to be, an opportunity for entrepreneurial provider organizations. School district administrators will continue to look for high-value programmatic options to address legal mandates within their budget pressures. For detailed information on IDEA spending and demographics be sure to check out our market intelligence report: The Special Education Market: $34.1 Billion In Spending For 6.7 Million Children In 2015. This report includes a trend analysis of IDEA spending and the number of children receiving services, information on spending and the number of children enrolled in special education in your state, and an explanation of the funding streams that are used to provide special education services for children.
For more on child-focused health care, social needs, and education needs from the OPEN MINDS Circle Library:
- What’s Driving ‘Whole Health’ For Children?
- Are The Kids All Right?
- Medicaid Cost For Autism – The Impact Of Special Education Funds
- What Are Public Agencies Spending On Consumer Transportation?
- How Are Schools Spending Their Budgets?
- Opportunities In The Autism Market Shift With More Managed Care
- Adults With Autism-A Growing Population & Opportunity
- Finding The Opportunities In Serving The 1 In 68
- States Make Autism Coverage For Children A Priority
- New Opportunities Serving Adults With Autism
For more, join OPEN MINDS Senior Associate Ray Wolfe, J.D. on September 10 at The 2019 OPEN MINDS Executive Leadership Retreat for his session, “Preparing I/DD & Other Long-Term Care Organizations For Managed Care: Group Discussion & Workshop.”