Special Education Funding in Pennsylvania: The Effects of a Policy of Neglect


  • William T. Hartman Temple University Press




The past 10 years have seen substantial changes in special education enrollments and funding in Pennsylvania. School district enrollments have been declining slightly, while the number of special education students in charter schools has been increasing. District expenditures for special education have steadily increased, while state subsidies for special education have stagnated for the past six years and the state share of support has declined. This state policy choice has resulted in an increase in districts’ costs of over $500 million to replace the lost state share. Along with the charter school enrollment increases have come substantial district tuition payments to charter schools, totaling over $1 billion from 2009–2010 through 2013–2014. Over half of these payments, $550 million, are in excess of the charter schools’ reported expenditures for special education, providing charter schools with a disguised subsidy for their general operations. The new special education funding formula from the legislature, while a step in the right direction, has not yet provided enough new money to make any substantial difference for district budgets.