LANSING, Mich. (Michigan News Source) – Despite millions of dollars that have been allocated to benefit students in special education, experts are concerned that the funds will not go far enough, and that Michigan lawmakers will need to invest more in programs that have been underfunded for decades. 

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Last year, lawmakers added an additional $264 million for this fiscal year to aid special education students in the classroom.  Assistance could help with a number of required supports such as special education aides in the classroom, or assistive technology for students with visual or hearing impairments.  One reason that this funding is not expected to make an immediate difference is because special education is still not fully funded by the state, and has not been for years according to the Detroit Free Press. 

The Michigan Association of Intermediate School Administrators revealed estimates that the shortfall of funding for special education programs between government and private contributions falls at $343 million for the fiscal year 2023.  A report from the state from 2017 reveals at the time, the estimated special education shortfall was at $700 million.  

“Inadequate school funding models create a situation where it may feel to some that students with disabilities are taking something away from other students, in terms of resources,” said Heather Eckner, director of statewide education and outreach for the Autism Alliance of Michigan. “It’s because of that limited approach that’s been in place in Michigan for school funding over decades. Frankly, all students in Michigan have been shortchanged.” 

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Without significant funding changes to provide more state money per student, especially those needing additional resources, the schools must make up the difference for foundation allowance – $9,000 per general education student – from the state.  

Director of the Special Education Instructional Leadership Network, Rachel Fuerer, said that an increased special education budget is critical this year and long term according to the Detroit Free Press.  

“There’s certainly a COVID impact that we’re continuing to see,” she said. “We expect special education numbers to be rising, at least for the next couple of years. We need to work on increasing and intensifying academic support.”   

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For more information about Michigan’s funding for special education, see the Special Education Program Finance page.