Special-Education Stimulus Funds Diverted To Other Costs In Monmouth And Ocean Counties

special edKim Vaccaro of Brick wasn’t aware that last year’s federal stimulus package included a $2.4 million grant to help her district enhance its special education program. So it was news to her that Brick spent just half of the money on new initiatives for special education kids. The rest went to pay the health benefits of some 250 special education teachers and staff. “That’s pretty outrageous,” said Vaccaro, 45, who is president of the Brick Township Special Education Parent Teacher Association. “That is totally unfair to our kids,” said Vaccaro, whose 12-year-old son Joel has autism. “Once again, they get shortchanged.” An Asbury Park Press investigation found that school districts in Monmouth and Ocean counties used the special aid to pay legal bills, expand non-special education programs and pay benefits for non-special education teachers.

What Brick and other districts did is perfectly legal, however. In fact, about 40 percent of the New Jersey school districts that received $360 million worth of special education grants from the stimulus spent as much as half of their windfall on general school purposes, compared to 44 percent nationwide, a survey by the U.S. General Accounting Office found.

The redirection of funds was possible thanks to a previously little-used provision in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the federal statute that guarantees children with disabilities the right to a “free and appropriate” education.

The law allows districts to use up to half of any annual increase in such federal aid to replace local tax dollars earmarked for special education, freeing up those funds for other uses.

Few districts have exercised this option in the past because the increases are usually paltry, but last year was a different story.

The historic $787 billion economic stimulus included an extra $11.3 billion in federal aid for special education, more than twice what districts normally would receive. The aid was in the form of IDEA Part B grants. The stimulus also included an additional $400 million in Part B preschool grants. Full article in APP

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4 COMMENTS

  1. in most districts it is ok because the children must recieve a FAPE ( free and appropraite eduction ) so really the funds are just a “bonus” it always the district to use the money to cover cost THAT THEY MUST PROVIDE REGUARDLESS. and that frees up other funding . in lakewood where 78% of the funding is going to private school children , they cannot do that, because the are not entitled to public funds , so it is not as if the feds are reimbursing the public funds.

    what the LBOE tried to do with tiny tots is classify it as public and therefor use the funds for themselves , because those children were entitled to an FAPE.

    dirty corrupt trick by.

    if you want to know why they would do it, just look at why out tax rates didi not go down and the trail of the special ed money and all will be answered,

  2. Lakewood siphons funds from every Special Ed program. IDEA, Title I, Chapter 192/193, Nursing, you name it. Lakewood didn’t wait for the Stimulus. Has been doing it for years. Special ed money is Lakewood School District’s slush fund. A docile, pliable, morally weak majority of the Board goes along with this. Time for change coming this April 20. Be there.

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