School Business Affairs September 2020

asbointl.org SCHOOL BUSINESS AFFAIRS | SEPTEMBER 2020 17 FINANCE AND ACCOUNTING I n the wake of reduced revenue precipitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, local educational agencies (LEAs) are looking for ways to limit or reduce edu- cation spending, including expenses for special edu- cation. However, unlike funding for other educational programs, special education operates in the context of a unique regulatory framework designed to protect the rights of students with disabilities. To protect student rights and to ensure that districts and schools have a stable source of funds to provide spe- cial education and related services, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) regulations require each LEA to maintain expenditures for special education from year to year (34 CFR §300.203). Failure to meet this maintenance of effort (MOE) requirement puts an LEA in the unenviable position of repaying the U.S. Department of Education (ED) from nonfederal funds as well as returning to the previously established, higher spending level the following year. Despite waivers granted to similar requirements across federal programs and agencies in response to the public health and fiscal crises caused by the COVID-19 pan- demic, the ED does not have authority, and as of August 15, 2020, Congress had not acted to waive the MOE requirement. Even if granted, federal waivers from MOE require- ments would be a temporary fix; waivers to the cor- responding IDEA requirement for states to maintain special-education funding are granted for one fiscal year at a time, and after that year, the state must return to the level of funding that would have been required in the absence of a waiver (ED 2020b). Similarly, emergency federal and state aid might tem- porarily plug budget gaps but fall short of addressing the looming longer-term budget. Meeting IDEAMaintenance of Effort Requirements: Three Actions to Take Now Districts can take action now to leverage special- education funding to meet MOE requirements while minimizing the impact on education revenues. By Sara Menlove Doutre, Tammy Kolbe, Ed.D., and Jason Willis ERMOLAEVA OLGA/STOCK.ADOBE.COM

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