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Policy Post: Special Education’s Debt Ceiling

July 27, 2011

There is so much drama about the debt ceiling and it’s impact on the economy and nation as a whole that specific but important issues may get lost in the budget debate. Special education has it’s own debt ceiling.

Pell Grants are being discussed as one area of the Federal Budget that will be cut short of it’s typical levels over the next decade. Pell Grants are Federal scholarships for needy students, allowing a college education to be affordable, and more importantly, accessible. The program has become a very popular vehicle for advancement, but in doing so, has run up a $11 billion deficit. It’s not a problem that was unforeseeable, but despite the lack of vision, lawmakers are now looking to pull the plug on it’s growth to reduce the country’s debt. Cuts to the program will likely mean less college graduates, particularly ones without significant student loan debt. The less debt you have the more likely you’ll opt to teach after you graduate, having less pressure to pay off loans. The pool of educators for special needs is further reduced since many positions require additional advanced degrees and training. We’ve talked about cuts to positions in school districts but several years from now we may be talking about the shortage of teachers to fill positions.

While the cut to all Federal funding for Reading is Fundamental may remain one of the most significant and direct blows to Special Education this year, there are many indirect but significant and long term impacts felt from cuts to programs like Pell Grants.

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