On April 25, 2013, Governor Tom Corbett signed into law a bill that will reform the special education funding formula to better account for the costs of meeting student needs. The legislation, which passed in the Senate 50-0 and in the House 193-0, calls for the formation of a 15-member commission to develop a new formula by September 30, 2013. Special education advocates consider its passage a major accomplishment.
The current formula is more than 20 years old and assumes that the number of special needs students in every district amounts to 16 percent of each district’s total student population. This assumption has led the state to underfund districts where the proportion of special needs students exceeds 16 percent. The legislation calls for a new formula to separate the cost of services into categories ranging from least intensive to most intensive, as well as to calculate each district’s three-year average of special needs enrollment numbers along with district wealth.