Students in special education services need extra resources that can be provided with state funding. The Report explains how the Texas Education Agency distributes funds for the needs of students with disabilities.
In the 2021-22 school year, an estimated $4.34 billion was allocated to special education, according to TEA. The most recent data on TEA’s website identifies 10.5% of students in the state are enrolled in special education programs.
How are Texas schools funded?
Read our explainer to a refresher on school funding here.
When considering special education funding, the state bases allotment on the amount of time the students are served in their individualized plans. According to TEA, students with disabilities who are part of the mainstream classroom and instruction are calculated in the average daily attendance allotment.
Schools receive about $6,160 per student attending school as a basic allotment. For special education, TEA gives schools an adjusted allotment. The adjustments are weighted differently based on the accommodations a student receives.
Here’s an example of how TEA would calculate the funding for a student:
- Johnny is at school for 170 days out of 180 days in the school year. To calculate his average daily attendance, the state divides days present by days in the school year. So, Johnny’s ADA is .944.
- Next, the state calculates contact hours, or the time Johnny accessed his accommodations. Each accommodation is weighted differently. Johnny has to spend time in a different classroom, called a resource room, for his special education plan. The weight for a resource room is 2.859. So, Johnny’s contact hours are determined by multiplying the days he came to school by the contact hour multiplier. His contact hours are 486.
- Next, the state calculates Johnny’s full-time equivalent status, which is 30 contact hours per week between a student participating in an eligible program and applicable program personnel. The equation for this is contact hours divided by days taught multiplied by daily contact hours. Johnny’s calculation would be 486 divided by 1,080 (school days, 180, multiplied by daily contact hours, 6). His full-time equivalent equals .45.
- Next, TEA calculates a student’s weighted full-time equivalent. A student with a disability is assigned one of 12 instructional arrangements, like Johnny’s resource room, each with a varying weight based on how long the student receives the instruction and where. Johnny’s FTE is .45, which is multiplied by his resource room funding weight of 3. Johnny’s weighted FTE is 1.35
- Finally, the state multiplies Johnny’s weighted FTE with the district’s adjusted allotment to get his special education funding. In this example, it’s $7,696 multiplied by 1.35 and his total is $10,390 for the year.
At least 55% of the funds districts receive for students with disabilities must be used for the special education program, according to Chapter 48 of the Texas Education Code. The rest can go to the general fund.
Districts across the state are spending more on special education expenses than they’re receiving from the state, according to TEA. In the 2020 fiscal year, districts spent just under $6 billion on special education but received around $4 billion from the state. By law, they were required to spend just over $2 billion.
Keeping that difference in expenditures versus allocations in mind, legislators could look at possible changes to the current formula this lLegislative session, according to TEA.
Kristen Barton is an education reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.