[IN-DEPTH] Schools cover tab for lawmakers’ failure to fund special education

First grade teacher Irene Hammerquist explains a fall-themed class project to students at Bales Elementary School. Some of her students have special needs, so she has learned to approach learning in a variety of ways, like using crafts to help them learn spelling words. /Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times

By Katie Campbell | Arizona Capitol Times

rizona lawmakers have not adjusted the additional dollars allocated for students with special needs in at least a decade, and public schools have been left to make up the difference. District and charter schools are federally mandated to provide services to those students, and a lack of funding does not excuse them from that obligation.

The money has to come from somewhere.

“You take it out of somebody else’s program,” said Chuck Essigs, who was involved in legislation that led to the education funding formula created in 1980.

Essigs, director of government relations for the Arizona Association of School Business Officials, said the formula met the needs of schools at the time. Today, it does not.

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