Special education students are the only students in Nevada that are federally mandated to be provided for, based on need. In 2017, the state budget appropriated around $180 million for ALL Nevada’s special education students. Yet, districts’ actual costs for special education were in excess of $400 million for all Nevada students. Nevada receives one quarter of the funds for special education from the federal government, the additional funds are to be provided by the state. However, since the state contribution falls short, the fund responsibility is then shifted down to the individual school districts, where it is taken from the general education fund. Providing all the legal and necessary resources for special education students, come at the cost of resources for general education students and explains increased class sizes and cuts in programs and curriculum.
There is a misconception that providing a basic support guarantee (or per-pupil amount) for each special education student would be sufficient. This does not account for the increased costs of providing resources for special education students, and the ever-increasing population of students identified as such. Special education costs mostly consist of services required over and above classroom instruction, such as speech therapy, tutoring or special education aides.
While the Legislature appropriated a $30 million increase in the 2017-19 state biennium budget for special education, this increase falls short of the more than $400 million that all schools in Nevada have had to cover from their general budget to provide resources for special education children.
When the state does not fully fund special education needs, districts end up having to provide less resources for general education students. This is part of the reason why parents are seeing ever-ballooning class sizes in grades 4-12. This creates an unfair situation for all students.
This situation is unacceptable for all students. Schools should be provided with enough funds to provide the proper resources for special education students and provide them an opportunity to excel and reach their potential without having to make cuts in other areas.