Funding Exceptional Student Education (Florida Students)

Funding Exceptional Student Education (Florida Students)

Over the last 50 years, funding the cost of Exceptional Student Education (ESE) have been accomplished with weighted Program Cost Factors (PCF) to account for the increased cost of providing educational services to these students. For ESE students to be successful in school, they may require one or more of following services:

  • Smaller student/teacher ratios.
  • Teachers with expertise in particular areas (i.e. speech therapy).
  • Additional support services not required by regular students i.e. psychological counseling).
  • Additional course materials adapted to their individual needs.
  • Assistive technology devices.
  • Services that extend beyond the regular school day.

It is obvious that these and other special services can add additional costs to the operating budget of a school system.

In Florida, the Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP) utilizes a weighted approach to address special education costs. The FEFP has always recognized these needs. Initially, only one PCF was included in the FEFP for special education. Over the next several years, additional PCFs were added until there were 15 funding categories for ESE students along with funding for mainstreaming students.

In the ESE funding model, prior to 1997, students were funded based upon their disability. Additionally, the district only received special education funding for the time outlined on the students Individual Education Plan (IEP).

If a student was mainstreamed into regular classes and the teachers documented the collaborative support services made available to the regular teachers, the district was allowed to collect double the Basic funding.

The double basic funding was not widely used by districts and with the restriction of collecting ESE funding for direct ESE services, the amount of mainstreaming was limited.

The 15 PCFs can be reviewed in the FEFP PowerPoint presentation under the FEFP. One will note that students could be funded under a part time or full time funding category.

For example, in a class of ESE students, there may be students identified with various handicaps. Each student would be funded at a different PCF for the time in the course, regardless of the services needed.

The calculation of FTE was very cumbersome. It was crucial that the time in special education, by exceptionality, be carefully identified on the IEP. This in turn had to be transferred to the course reporting system, where FTE funding is calculated.

Over a period of years, the Florida Department of Education created a new model for funding Exceptional Student Education. Funding levels were to be shifted form specific time and exceptionalities, to student needs and services.

The ESE Revised model, implemented in 1997, provided for five PCF, categorized as 251-255. To determine the PCF for a student, a Matrix of Services form was to be completed. The services recorded on the Matrix were to be outlined on the students IEP.

Under the new funding system, the student was to be classified under the ESE funding category the entire school week. If the student received services in other special programs (i.e. ESOL, vocational), their funding in these courses were also to be funded as ESE

Over the next three years, various revisions of the criteria for marking services on the Matrix were provided by the Florida Department of Education. During the same time, districts on multiple occasions were requested to review and correct Matrix scores based upon the most recent criteria interpretations.

This resulted in vast fluctuations in district revenues. The Florida Legislature eliminated the first three levels of the Matrix for the 2000/2001 school year. This represented approximately 95% of all ESE students.

For that school year, the Florida Legislature created three funding FEFP Program categories:

111 ESE grades PK 3

112 ESE grades 4 8

113 ESE grades 9-12

The high cost categories of 254 and 255 remained.

The Legislature took the weighted funds from the removed 251, 252, and 253 PCF and created an ESE Guarantee allocation. This provided the school districts with a fixed amount of funds to pay for the additional services required by ESE students.

An ESE student is now funded under one of the above categories or a score of 254 or 255. If the student is funded at the higher level, the student must have a Matrix of Services and IEP that supports the services marked on the Matrix.

Beginning with the 2001/2002, charter schools, and de-regulated schools are to receive their funds based upon the Matrix. Additionally, students eligible for a McKay Scholarship receive a voucher based upon the students Matrix score.

The following site reviews the level of Inclusion across the United States.

This site provides the incidence rate of disabled students:

The following site provides information regarding the incidence rate/service of ELL (English Language Learners) across the United States. These are also referred to as ESL, ESOL, etc. The ELL programs DO NOT come under the category of special education. However, the costs of providing these services is greater than that of regular/basic students and is often addressed through a Program Cost Factor (i.e. weigh).

Complete the following for this component:

  1. Obtain a copy of the Matrix of Services. there is a link in the Module: ESE
  2. Discuss with an ESE teacher how a Matrix is to be completed
  3. Write a short summary (minimum of 5 pages of narrative) of how the Matrix is scored, what areas are addressed, and what special considerations are addressed
  4. How does your district utilize federal IDEA entitlement funds?