According to the New Hampshire Department of Education, schools will be receiving $10.3 million in unused funds for special education from the federal government. The funds are in addition to federal IDEA funds for the 2019-2020 school year.
The NH Department of Education would have had to return these funds, which had accumulated over the past ten years, to the federal government. But the money will now be allocated to districts based on total enrollment (not proportional to the number of students receiving special education services), including private and public schools, and the relative poverty levels of the district.
“Special education costs put huge pressure on New Hampshire school district budgets, but districts have not always been able to use special education grants provided by the federal government,” Edelblut said in a press release. “This agreement to send more than $10 million back to New Hampshire schools will make a real difference for special education students across the Granite State.”
As part of the agreement, the U.S. Department of Education has asked New Hampshire to adjust how it calculates school population figures to account for private school enrollments. Edelblut will use state set-aside funds to ensure that no New Hampshire school district will see a drop in special education funding next year because of this change.
Funds by district & approved uses
The Department of Education outlined approved uses for the extra funds, including:
- Training and professional development
- Instructional equipment like computers, specialized furniture, and playground equipment that provides playground access to children with disabilities
- Services and supports
- Administrative case management costs
- Child Find activities, used to find, identify, and evaluate children who may have disabilities and assessment materials
- Transition from family-centered supports and services to preschool special education activities, like home visits and technical assistance
- Instructional materials like books and software
Manchester ($906,912), Nashua ($704,327), Concord ($316,954), Derry ($315,921), Concord ($316,954), Dover ($267,249), and Rochester ($230,928) are set to receive the most funds for the 2019-2020 school year. Find a complete list by district here.
Where the funds came from
Dr. Carl Ladd, the Executive Director of the NH School Administrators Association, provided insight as to why there appeared to be so much money unspent by districts in a column for the Concord Monitor in January. The $10.3 million accounted for about 2% of total federal funds over the period, and he noted that strict guidelines and timeframes, restrictions on funds, and workforce shortages for necessary special education staff like paraprofessionals contributed to the unspent funds:
There are many reasons why districts may not spend all of their IDEA allocations; all of them have to do with the very strict guidelines the federal and state government require of each grant recipient. Oftentimes, the problem has to do with the strings attached to the dollars allocated, or the unreasonable deadlines around applications for grants.
Technical assistance & more information
The NH Department of Education is hosting webinars through next week to provide technical assistance to help school districts understand the changes to allocations, the uses of excess funds and procedures to ensure grant funds are fully accessed by school districts. Find a list of the webinar dates, along with registration information, here.