Governor Corbett Signs HB2

The special education funding reform bill is now Pennsylvania law.

Last year I traveled with my little guy and some other families and lobbyists to Harrisburg, to lobby for what was then known as SB1115. For reasons I won’t get into, that bill ultimately did not pass by the end of 2013, so it was essentially dead in the water. Thankfully, we do have some dedicated folks in Harrisburg who understand the dire straits that special education is in, and the bill was reintroduced as HB2 this past January.

I am very pleased to report that last week Governor Corbett signed the bill. What this will do is allow our state to create a commission to change the funding formula for Pennsylvania’s special education system. Right now, every district receives funding for 16 percent of its students. It doesn’t matter if your district has 10 percent with IEPs or 20 percent with IEPs, you get funding for 16 percent. This is wrong for so many reasons. With this formula, districts essentially are encouraged to under-identify and provide less special education, and use the excess funds for something else. And the districts that are known for being great for special ed are punished, because more kids with IEPs move into the district, but they don’t get any additional funding.

This new formula makes it more fair because in addition to getting the correct amount of funding, there are three tiers based on level of need. I certainly don’t see these as a perfect solution without any flaws, but it’s a start. Now that Governor Corbett has signed the bill, a commission to work on the specifics will be formed.

This law serves only to restructure how special education dollars are distributed in Pennsylvania. It does not ask for any additional funding. It’s really a shame that these days, it is expected that when budget cuts happen, education is cut. It’s not a matter of “if” it will be cut; it’s just a matter of how much will be cut and from which parts of education. Personally, I feel that education should never be on the table for budget cuts – regular ed or special ed. If we don’t value education enough to protect it, what does that say about us?

Please take a moment and read over the HB2 information. Consider looking into how your legislators voted and whether or not they were one of the bill’s sponsors. Thank them for this and consider dropping a note to Governor Corbett to thank him for signing it.

Lisa Lightner is a Chester County, PA mom of two. This post is adapted from her blog A Day in Our Shoes, which focuses on support, resources and advocacy services for parents of children with special needs.

Categories: MomSpeak