NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Impact of Special Education on Regular Education

June 17, 1996

Soaring costs for handling "special education" students, along with inflation, are responsible for flat or decreasing spending on regular education students in many districts across the nation, according to statistics.

In Dayton, Ohio, for example, the annual per-pupil price for a disabled student is $25,000. The cost for a general education student is $5,611.

Many parents and educators are becoming concerned because special-ed students are guaranteed by law an "appropriate" education, while rank-and-file students are covered by no such guarantee. The result, they say, is that any increases in school funding are channeled to special education classes, with general education classes left only the crumbs if there are any.

  • Experts say that the rule of thumb -- developed years ago -- is that special education students cost 2.3 times as much as regular education students, which, they say, is probably an understatement today.
  • Today, special-ed students make up about 12 percent of the school population.
  • In 1991, those students absorbed nearly four out of every 10 new dollars added to school budgets.
  • In Dayton, where the special-ed population has risen from 11 to 14.5 percent over the last five years, the special-ed budget has soared from $10 million to $19 million over the past 10 years.

Source: Richard Whitmire, "Special Ed: Is the Price Too High?" USA Today, June 17, 1996.


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