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The Funding Black Hole of Special Education

Abadnonned schoolAnne Dachel has been tracking the explosion in Special Education for more than a decade. We are a world full of deaf ears, told to panic over only what the media tells us to panic over, rarely the insidious, deep threats.  Funding is the black hole, 1986 may have been the Big Bang. Anne has catalogued thousands of stores at Loss of Brain Trust.

We will continue Adriana's State of Plague series tomorrow.

By Anne Dachel

The excerpts below are from a story in the U.K. Guardian on July 28: ‘Funding black hole’: councils grapple with ‘catastrophic’ debt for SEN children.  


This was shocking, and it should have the attention of everyone in Britain. The story announced that the debt local councils face trying to provide for special needs students is 'catastrophic'/'unmanageable.’

The national government is pouring BILLIONS with a B into special education, but deficits are growing because it’s never enough.

AND things are expected to get worse.

Planned government SEN reforms not enough to plug ‘unmanageable’ deficit that could rise to £3.6bn [$4.4B], analysis shows.

Local authorities in England are grappling with a £2.4bn [$2.9B] “funding black hole” for special educational needs, according to new analysis, with councils warning the impact on young people could be “catastrophic”.

Rising demand has resulted in councils’ SEN deficits growing six-fold since 2018, according to analysis by the County Councils Network (CCN) and the Society of County Treasurers. A third more children have become eligible for extra funding support over the past three years and the number now stands at 473,000 children….

…“Over the last five years, councils have not shirked from taking hard decisions on SEN support in order to try to make services financially sustainable, but we are swimming against the tide. Rising demand each year has meant our deficits have increased six-fold since 2018.”…

“We are putting unprecedented investment into the high needs budget, meaning it will be worth £9.7bn [$11.8B] by 2023-24, as well as creating tens of thousands of new school places for children with Send, or who require alternative provision over the next three years.

This was not a local story. It was about what’s happening all over Britain. I was startled that finally someone was talking about the disaster happening to education in the U.K. I naively expected other news sites would pick up the story, but no one else published a word about it. The story died.

Notice the words ‘catastrophic’ and ‘unmanageable’ in the article. Those are about the strongest superlatives you could use in a piece to express just how bad things are.

STILL, no one sees any solution except to keep dumping billions into the rabbit hole. The problem is never the ever-increasing disabled population of young people in Britain, especially one with “high needs.” Somehow nothing is really wrong. Somehow statistics don’t really mean anything.

Nowhere is anything getting better, leveling off. There’s always more need, greater costs. It’s in all my stories.

Here are sample of recent reports:

New Jersey: “With autism prevalence estimates approaching 7 percent [one in every 14 children] in some areas, we need universal autism screening between 18 and 36 months and enhanced support for the early intervention system.

Wales, U.K.: Ollie is among the one in 10 children and adults who have dyslexia, a condition that causes problems with reading, writing, spelling and, sometimes, numeracy. ...

Vermont: The 281 restraints at Brookside Primary School in Waterbury is a very strong indication that something is not working. Brookside Primary needs to stop doing what is not working.

Louisiana: Operated by LKA Baton Rouge, which is entering into its ninth year, the school for dyslexic students will open its doors at a new location near the intersection of U.S 190 and North Collins Boulevard in Covington on Aug. 11, becoming the first charter school in St. Tammany.

The LKA board of directors selected the area due to high demand from parents seeking help for their children.

Colorado: Gunbarrel's Hillside School is planning to expand to meet increased demand for spots in its intensive program for students with dyslexia, along with adding space for evaluations, community information meetings and teacher training.

"Just through word of mouth, our waitlist is increasing every year,"

Mansfield, U.K.: If approved by Mansfield Council, the local planning authority, the scheme would see the current property, used as a home and in a wider housing development, transformed into an education centre for children aged seven-14 with autism and mobility problems.

It comes as the provider looks to meet the growing demand for this form of education in the Mansfield area, with the plans put forward to address a ‘local need’.

U.K.: High needs funding – support for children with the most severe special educational needs and disabilities – is increasing by a further £570 million [$684M] in 2023-24, bringing the total budget to over £9.7 billion [$11.6B].

Farnborough, U.K.: Tilbury Douglas, a leading UK building, infrastructure, engineering and fit-out business, has successfully handed over the new building for Samuel Cody School, a Special Educational Needs (SEN) school in Farnborough, Hampshire.

The new provision will open in September 2022 and provide 90 places for children in years 5-11 with social, emotional and mental health needs.

The £13million [$16M] project was awarded to Tilbury Douglas through the Department for Education Construction Framework, following successful delivery of Austen Academy, another recently completed SEN school project in Hampshire.

U.K.: Two new reports have revealed that young children aged between 16 and 18, with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD), don't receive equal care when they transition to adult health services….

…some parents still believe a ‘cliff edge’ exists for some provision for 18-25 year olds.”

New Jersey: Bierman Autism Centers, an ABA provider in New Jersey, recently expanded its commitment to families in New Jersey by adding autism diagnostic services to their offerings….

With over 150 graduations, BIERMAN currently has centers, and is expanding in: Arizona, Indiana, Massachusetts, North Carolina, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Ohio. …

Florida: Committed to assisting preschool aged children with autism and their families, Stride Autism Centers (“Stride”) is proud to announce the opening of a brand new location in Orland Park, Illinois.

Enrollment is now open for children ages 2 to 6 at this new center, which is conveniently located at 18080 Wolf Rd. This represents Stride’s tenth location in the Midwest and its third location in Illinois.

Kirklees, U.K.: Exciting new plans for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) are to be discussed by the members of Kirklees Cabinet….

It has also been confirmed that the council is receiving a further £8.2million [$9.8M] in government funding to support its work in transforming SEND services for children and young people. This builds on the £33.5million [$40M] secured earlier in 2022.

Lancaster, U.K.: A special school in Lancaster – which has more pupils wanting to attend it than there are places available – is set to expand. Lancashire County Council’s cabinet has approved plans to boost the capacity of Morecambe Road School, which educates children and young people between the ages of three and 16 who have learning difficulties.

Its current pupil roll stands at 155, but that will rise to 189 after County Hall gave the go-ahead to the expansion.

An additional 22 pupils will be accommodated in new teaching space being created on the existing site, while a dozen others will be based at a new “satellite” facility to be built less than half a mile away at Lancaster and Morecambe College.

Sussex, U.K.: New facilities could be built at Felpham Community College to broaden its provision for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND)….

According to the application, West Sussex County Council currently places a high number of pupils with social communication difficulties in independent and non-maintained educational provision.

Ireland: Parents of children with complex special educational needs want summer programmes for their children to be included in the school year, with many "dreading the summer" because of the lack of support.

It comes as Anne Rabbitte, the Minister for Disabilities, said that Ireland needs to look at a ‘Maltese model’, where children with special educational needs continue attending school for the entire summer….

As a result, Linda “dreads” the summer holidays. “It’s really tough. Last July, without a routine, he ended up with self-harming behaviors, hitting his head, bruises on his legs and I had to go to CAMHS.”

He was hitting windows, and he had calluses on his hands. It’s just frustration and boredom because there is nothing, there is nowhere he can go.

Ipswich, U.K.: Students and teachers at an Ipswich academy came together to celebrate the official opening of its new space dedicated to pupils with special needs and disabilities. The Special Education Needs and Disability Unit at Chantry Academy is a joint project that provides the school with 11 additional classrooms, together with a new library, circulation space and toilets. …

“It will make such a difference to young people at the school. We are committed to increasing the number of SEND placements in Suffolk and ensuring that we provide the very best education for all our children and young people.”

U.K.: New figures reveal shocking number of attacks by children against teachers…

A Sunday Times investigation found that at least 2,500 incidents of physical intervention occurred over the past three years, mostly in mainstream and special needs primary schools. They included children as young as five who were physically held and escorted to a “safe place” after assaulting a member of staff.

Union officials said violence in classrooms is rising amid testimonies from teachers and parents that — for far too many children — life at school is punctuated by violence, classroom evacuations and an unacceptable loss of valuable learning time.

Isle of Wight, U.K.: A new sixth-form centre for Isle of Wight children with special educational needs and/or disabilities has opened in Newport….

…the centre would help meet the growing demand for special school places on the Island and support the post-16 SEN strategy….

Birmingham, U.K.: Councillors said the approval of the SEND school was 'very much needed' in the north of Solihull

A brand new academy for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) will be built in Smith’s Wood , it has been announced. The Heights Academy will accommodate a maximum of 116 children aged between 7 and 16 and cater specifically to those with autism…. The school will open with 48 pupils across all three key stages, increasing to 64 in its second year, 80 in its third, 96 in the fourth year, and 112 in the fifth. When the school is at full capacity, up to 84 teaching jobs will be available.

Idaho: Thousands of kids and parents are struggling to get autism care. A new autism treatment center is now open in Meridian to help fill in the gaps here in the Treasure Valley.

More than 8,000 kids in Idaho are affected by autism, according to the CDC. And as the Treasure valley grows, so does the need for more services….

She says local families face long wait lists - sometimes up to 50 children long before receiving services. The wait to get diagnosed is also long….

Devon, U.K.: Inspectors have raised concerns over a lack of progress to tackle failures in support for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) in Devon, which were first raised almost four years ago….

Other concerns raised include a failure to tackle lengthy waits children face for an autism assessment. There are almost 2,000 children on the waiting list in the county, with almost half waiting for more than a year….

Meanwhile, Cambridgeshire County Council is to invest £60m [$72M] into improving support for children with SEND. This includes expanding support in five schools and creating a further 500 special school places.

Ireland: Many families are being pushed into poverty to pay for private assessments and services for children with disabilities due to a huge backlog in HSE services, an Oireachtas committee has heard….

Mr Harris said the system will come under even greater pressure next year, with latest projections indicating there will be demand for more than 20,000 assessments. Yet, he said, the system had struggled to complete about 6,000 assessments last year.

The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Autism was also told on Tuesday that a shortage of professionals for vital therapeutic roles has reached “crisis” levels.

Fianna Fáil TD Joe Flaherty said in the Longford-Westmeath area alone there were more than 700 children waiting for assessments for an average of 2½ years. Some children, he said, were waiting in excess of four years….

U.K.: There were 1.4 million school pupils in the UK with special education needs and disabilities (SEND) in 2021 – the highest number recorded since 2014. As a result, there are now an estimated 473,255 children and young people with an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP), a number which has increased annually since 2010.

Of the total number of children and young people receiving SEND support in 2020/21, 145,878 (14 per cent) had a specific learning difficulty such as dyslexia or dyspraxia.

Dyslexia is the most common cause of reading, writing and spelling difficulties and, according to the British Dyslexia Association, around 10 per cent of the population are believed to suffer from it….

As someone who has experienced first-hand the challenges of living with dyslexia, Mr Hancock, the MP for West Suffolk, drafted the Dyslexia Screening Bill which has now been raised in parliament. The bill puts forward plans for all children in the UK to be screened for dyslexia before they leave primary school….

Wales, U.K.: Pupils across Cardiff are set to benefit from a wide-ranging expansion of special and additional learning needs education provision, with recommended proposals creating more than 270 additional spaces over the coming years….

At the core of the plan is the creation of more than 200 additional places at eight schools across the city, …

In addition, the Council is set to increase the number of places across the city for pupils with emotional health and wellbeing needs.

Liverpool, U.K.: Liverpool’s education budget is unlikely to receive a “significant increase” in funding and underspends may need to be stretched to balance the books…

“The authority is currently experiencing significant increased demand for specialist provision for September 2022 and a number of additional places have already been created for September so it is likely that this underspend will need to be used to fund these places.” A more detailed review of the spend will be undertaken when all placements are confirmed, but the report, written by John Byrne, Liverpool Council strategic finance manager for education and schools, warned the cash left over may need to go further next year.

U.K.: An MP has described how parents and grandparents have been left “bawling” while waiting for up to four years for initial mental health assessments for children.

Rosie Duffield, Labour MP for Canterbury, said that every week she is contacted by a constituent who is struggling to get support from their local child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS).

She said that a wait of two to four years is a “lifetime” for parents who fear their child could be suicidal….

“And we’re talking about a condition like ASD (autism spectrum disorder), which the school recognises and is absolutely desperate to get help with….

She added: “There will be mental health support teams in the schools in your area, there will be other advances… we’re seeing 170,000 more children and young people this year than we were last year.

“We’ve grown the CAMHS workforce by 40%.

Colorado: After outgrowing its central Pueblo location due to an increased demand for services, the specialized autism support services provider Family Support Center has opened a second office in north Pueblo to help meet the community’s needs.

The center, which works with children of all ages who live with autism spectrum disorder, will continue to run its original practice at 1026 W. Abriendo Ave. and can now accommodate nearly 200 additional patients at its new location at 805 Desert Flower Blvd.

“We got to the point where we were definitely like, ‘We are full,’” Clinic Manager Melissa Smith said of the decision to open the new location.

“Which is crazy that, even throughout the pandemic, we were still growing, because the need is there. Kids don't stop having problem behaviors when a pandemic hits.”

Middlesborough, U.K.: A COUNCIL has divided opinion for paying for a child's taxi ride to school - which happens to be a whopping 89-mile journey.

Middlesbrough Council, which Labour lost a few years ago, pays for 458 children to be driven to school, journeys which cost the authority a staggering £32,901 [$39,000]per week. A freedom of information request (FOI) shows one of these journeys is an 89-mile trip for a child with specialist needs, which cannot be met in the immediate area in Teesside….

Cllr Barrie Cooper, the executive member for the environment and MICA member, said: "The children predominantly have an education health and care plan and attend their named setting or students who have a special educational need or who are classed as vulnerable.

"Many of the students have a complex medical need and attend a specialist setting….

Since the review of the council transport policy in 2017, the number of children receiving some form of transport assistance has increased from 650 to 1100….

Since September 2021, there have been 179 taxis, 81 minibuses, and seven coaches contracted to provide transport for students.

There are currently, 146 taxis, 64 minibuses and seven coaches in use.

There are 87 contracts in place to take children to school outside of Middlesbrough, which cost £15,633 per week.

The shortest journey is 12 miles and the longest is 89 miles.

These stories are from the last couple of weeks, but they’re nothing out of the ordinary. We have been conditioned to never question why it’s always more and more kids and more and more funding.

I guess it can just go on forever.




Neither political party, nor Matt Frost, nor Desantis will magically rescue Florida - or anywhere else - from having to fund more and more complicated, laundry-list style needs. And both political parties have abandoned even mentioning autism, except very rarely. I thought Neurodiversity wasn't solely about the ultra high-functioning tech wizards, Elon Musks of the world, and happy college students. But it allows apparently only the mild ultra-high-functioning autistics that live fairly normal, happy lives without severe pain on a daily basis.


Bill- I agree with a lot of what you’re saying !


Special education is often a waste of money on on extreme the over -diagnosis of autism among other conditions and the related over uses of services such as speech/occupational/physical therapy for children and teens who do not need those services or not need it as long as it is needed by the child but allowed by the school district's liberal but not responsible monetary budgets.
On the opposite extreme is the huge amount of time and money wasted for failed inclusion attempts of those with serious disabilities in normal classes or in classes for those with milder disabilities.
A related issue of waste and over spending that I witness first hand is of money and time wasted by the failed vocational rehabilitation attempts of those with severe disabilities with delusional special education and vocational rehabilitation employees believing a person that can hardly speak or not even be able to read simple words like "he or the" can work a competitive employment job like a grocery bag person at a super market or a janitor at a motel. Some people are so disabled they are a unproductive burden on sheltered workshops.

Jerry Martinez

Great work Ms. Dachel. Oh those magical questions we all learned in Elementary school, decades ago. Who? what? When?, Where and here is the big one WHY? Move along, nothing to see here. That better awareness sure is expensive!!! Unbelievable! Keep up the excellent work.
G. Martinez

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