Special Education and School-Age Parents Aid is the major categorical aid program supporting special education in Wisconsin. School districts and other eligible LEAs receive partial reimbursement for certain instructional, transportation and other costs of special education and related services in the prior year. Total costs have greatly exceeded the funding available for many years and currently about one-fourth of eligible expenses are reimbursed.
This categorical aid program provides state funding for special education services to children with disabilities as well as services to school-age parents. Special education aid is provided under ss. 115.88 and 118.255, Wis. Stats. and aid for school-age parents falls under s. 115.93; both are funded through the same appropriation, s. 20.255(2)(b) and the vast majority of aid is for special education. Like Equalization Aid, this is a cost-reimbursement program that provides funding based on eligible costs in the prior year.
School districts, CESAs, CCDEBs and non-district (2r) charter schools can receive special education aid under s. 115.88. Aid for health treatment related to particular disabilities under s. 118.255 is available to districts, CESAs and CCDEBs (not 2rs) with an approved plan, while aid for school-age parent programs under s. 115.93 is available only to districts.
Only the excess costs of providing special education to children with disabilities (defined in s. 115.76) and school-age parents are eligible for categorical aid. Aid is available for the salary and benefits of licensed teachers, aides and support staff, as well as transportation and a few other specific costs. Staff eligibility for categorical aid depends upon both licensure and assignment. The eligibility requirements for categorical aid are generally stricter than for funding under a federal IDEA grant.
Special education and school-age parents categorical aid is a sum-certain appropriation in the biennial budget. In 2018-19, the total appropriation was $368,939,100. Aid payments are prorated as total eligible costs exceed the appropriation; in recent years the proration rate has been in the range of 25 to 30 percent.
Aid is paid throughout the year over six payments. The first five payments are made on the third Mondays from November through March, each being 15 percent of the total amount under a conservative proration estimate. A final payment of 25 percent (plus or minus any adjustments after the proration is finalized) is made the second Monday of June. Revenue is coded to Fund 27, source 611.
Fall 2020 Updates
2020-21 Aid Proration Rate
The 2020-21 payments of Special Education and School-Age Parents Aid will reimburse last year's eligible special education costs at a rate of 28.21 percent. A slightly lower rate is used for the November through March interim payments to avoid overpayment; the final payment in June 2021 will reflect each LEA’s full aid eligibility at the year’s final proration rate.