Disability Rights Ohio continues to monitor state school funding proposal, its impact on Doe case

February 1, 2013 / education

Yesterday, Gov. John Kasich's administration described a new “student-focused” system of school funding. The administration claims that no school district will see a funding decrease over the next two years and that state spending on K-12 programs will increase by 6.7% and 4.1% in respective years of the upcoming biennium compared to the current biennium. General revenue fund allocations for K-12 education in the budget would be about $7.4 billion in fiscal year 2014 and $7.7 billion in FY 2015, the administration reported.

However, also yesterday, Policy Matters released a report on the current biennial budget, urging state lawmakers to make greater investments in Ohio's school children. The report states that in 2011, the Ohio General Assembly passed, and the governor signed, a budget for the current biennium (FY 2012-13) that included $1.8 billion less in overall funding for K-12 education than the previous two-year budget.

Disability Rights Ohio will be reviewing the proposal and monitoring the education budget as it proceeds through the legislative process, to determine its impact on the case of Doe v. State of Ohio.

Doe is a certified class action lawsuit brought on behalf of over 260,000 preschool and school-age Ohio students with disabilities. The defendants include the Governor, the State of Ohio and state education officials. The case is scheduled for trial in December 2013 before the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, Eastern Division.

The plaintiffs claim that Ohio’s system of funding special education causes widespread violations of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requirement for the provision of a free appropriate public education and discriminates against students with disabilities, in violation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

Specifically, the plaintiffs allege that although the state adopted a cost-based formula that is weighted per pupil, it has failed to fully fund it. As a result, school district officials in financially strapped districts make decisions about the provision of services to students with disabilities based on the availability of funds instead of the individualized needs of the student. The lack of appropriate services results in students being placed in overly restrictive educational settings, in violation of the federal law requirement that services must be delivered in the least restrictive setting, which can also lead to a lack of meaningful educational progress for those students.

If the plaintiffs prevail, the court could order the State to remedy its failure to comply with federal laws by providing full funding for special education services.

Watch this space for more information as additional details are available.

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