Center for Special Education Finance (CSEF)

Federal, state, and local governments invest significant resources to educate students with disabilities, who make up 13 percent of public school enrollment. A recent national study reports that average spending is double for students receiving special education than what is spent on a child receiving no supplemental services. In 1999-2000, $50 billion—approximately 14 percent of total spending on elementary and secondary education—was spent across the 50 states and the District of Columbia on special education services (see reports below). Given the large investment of resources, it is important that we understand not only how much is being spent, but also how the dollars are being used for this special population.

From 1992–2004, the Center for Special Education Finance (CSEF)—a national technical assistance center funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs—addressed fiscal policy questions related to the delivery and support of special education throughout the United States. A major undertaking for CSEF was the Special Education Expenditure Project, a comprehensive, nationally representative study of special education spending. Findings from this study are detailed in the reports listed below.

Although CSEF ended as a national technical assistance center in 2004, AIR’s special education finance work continues in states and districts, through the evaluations of state funding formulas for special education and other consultation efforts.

Image of Jennifer Harr-Robins
Principal Researcher