The Cost of Compassion: How the Government Supports Special Needs Children’s Programs

Reviewed by Mary McLaughlin, Special Education Teacher; M.S. SpEd

Cost Of Special Ed

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The Cost of Compassion: How the Government Supports Special Needs Children’s Programs

In years past:
Colonial Times-1875: Era before organized child protection
1875-1962: Growth of organized child protection, non-governmental
1963-today: Era of government sponsored child protection services

$240,000: estimated amount needed to raise a child from birth to age 18.
More than 10%: of U.S. households have offspring — adult children included — with special needs
6.5 million kids ages 3-21 are diagnosed with special needs, up 40% in 8 years
$1.4 million: cost per family to raise someone with autism for life

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35% of mothers of children with autism earn 35% less than mothers of children without autism.
WHY? More time is required for child care; less time to work

$126 billion: staggering cost that autism costs society per year (adding up federal, state and local costs)
Between 1999-2000 and 2009-2010: number of children getting services for autism soared from 65,000 to 378,000
$2.3 million: cost to a family to take care of someone with intellectual disabilities (I.Q. under 70) for their life
8% of kids under 15 in the United States have some sort of disability; 1/2 of those are considered severe.

The Financial Burden on the Federal Government:

Before 1975 more than a million students with disabilities were excluded from schools and 3.5 million did not receive appropriate special education services.

Enacted laws that relate to special needs children:
• Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (1975) aka IDEA. [Nation’s federal special education law that ensures public schools serve the educational needs of students with disabilities]
• Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (1973)
• Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) 1990

18 percent: Federal government now pays 18% of the $50 billion spent annually on special-education services required by IDEA.

2 to 3 X: average special-education student costs 2.3 times more than a general education student

Percentage of public school population served under IDEA:
• 1980: 11%
• 1990: 11.5 %
• 2000: 13.2%
• 2005: 13.5 %
• 2012: 13%

The Burden on States, Local Government, and Families:

92 percent of special needs families, nationwide, have added financial burdens
On average, a family with a special needs child has $774 in additional expenses each year.

Cost of raising a child with special needs, by state
(average yearly out of pocket extra cost per family, by most expensive states)
• Georgia: $972
• South Carolina $933
• Tennessee: $909
• Colorado: $858
• North Carolina: $856
$562: Out of pocket extra cost per family in Massachusetts, the least out of pocket of any state in the U.S.

State and local support of special needs kids varies: from 3 percent in Oklahoma to 90 percent in Wyoming; local contributions range from 0 percent in Wyoming to 80 percent in Arizona.

Why the Growth in Program Costs?

• Rising salaries paid to educators
• A growing reliance on clinical staff, i.e. occupational and physical therapists
• A dramatic increase in use of expensive adaptive technology devices
• Special education as an entitlement has resulted in significant levels of litigation

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Parents: Need Help?

Support groups: Parent to Parent for families of children with disabilities:
Parent training and information (PTI) centers and community parent resource centers (CPRCs) in every state:
Groups concerned with a specific disability, such as the Autism Society of America (ASA):
Division for Early Childhood (DEC) through the Council for Exceptional Children:
National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC);
National Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center (NECTAC):

Cost Of Special Ed

Sources: [help for parents]