New Mission

New Mission

My mission is to explore how other countries around the world are dealing with education and special education issues.

I would like to visit and observe different types of schools that have proven records of success, wherever those schools may be. I would like to meet with school directors and administrators, government officials, leaders in the business world, and others who are responsible for implementing education systems or otherwise connected to education to learn more about how education is being addressed in their communities.

If you know of any remarkable schools in other parts of the world (especially special needs schools), please let me know about them. If you know of any education experts who are engaged in remarkable work in this field, please introduce me to them.

Please do not hesitate to share your thoughts or ideas regarding the above. Read more about my mission here.

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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Top Ten Autism Research Achievements This Year

Autism Speaks has compiled a list of the top ten autism research achievements in 2011, including the South Korea study (which we previously blogged about) and some fascinating breakthroughs:

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Recently Released OSEP Policy Documents

The U.S. Department of Education is legally obligated to publish, on a quarterly basis, correspondence it has received from individuals regarding interpretation of the IDEA or the federal regulations.  Responses to these inquiries are fielded by the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP).  Although the responses are not binding law, they can serve as useful policy guidance.  Over the last week, OSEP released the most recent documents.  Below is one example concerning the issue of "maintenance of effort," a principle that we have blogged about in the past, which stands for the idea that a school district "may not reduce its level of expenditures for the education of children with disabilities 'below the level of those expenditures for the preceding fiscal year.'"  The letter addresses the following question: In an instance where a school district fails to pay the amount it was supposed to pay in year 1, under the idea of maintenance of effort, in year 2 do they pay the amount they were supposed to pay in year 1, or the amount they actually paid in year 1?  This document, and others, available at

June 16, 2011

Dr. Bill East, Executive Director
National Association of State Directors of Special Education, Inc.
1800 Diagonal Road, Suite 320
Alexandria, Virginia  22314

Dear Dr. East:

I am writing in response to your letter to me dated February 17, 2011, requesting a written response to your question about the local educational agency (LEA) maintenance of effort (MOE) requirement in 34 CFR §300.203(b). 

In your letter, you ask about the following scenario:
An LEA fails to meet their maintenance of effort.  As a result, the LEA pays the State educational agency (SEA) an amount equal to the shortage.  The SEA then returns the money to the U.S. Department of Education.
Question:  In determining the base amount that the LEA must spend the following year, do they maintain the base amount from the previous year, or reset the base amount to reflect the lower amount actually spent the previous year?
Under section 613(a)(2)(A)(iii) of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and 34 CFR §300.203(a), except as provided in 34 CFR §§300.204 and 300.205, funds provided to an LEA under Part B of the IDEA must not be used to reduce the level of expenditures for the education of children with disabilities made by the LEA below the level of those expenditures for the preceding fiscal year. While the IDEA does not contain a specific provision that addresses the circumstance you raise with respect to LEAs[1], the Department must rely on the plain language of the statute and regulation with regard to the level of expenditures, which provide that an LEA may not reduce its level of expenditures for the education of children with disabilities “below the level of those expenditures for the preceding fiscal year.”  See section 613(a)(2)(A)(iii) and 34 CFR §300.203(a).  Under this language, the LEA, in the fiscal year immediately following the fiscal year in which it failed to maintain effort, is obligated to expend no less than the amount it expended in the prior fiscal year for the education of children with disabilities from either local funds only, or from State and local funds.  It is not obligated to expend at least the amount it expended in the last fiscal year for which it met the maintenance of effort requirement.  In other words, each year’s LEA maintenance of effort obligation is based on the actual amount expended in the immediate prior fiscal year.

As your question assumes, in the event that an LEA fails to maintain its required level of effort, the SEA must pay the Department, from non-Federal funds or funds for which accountability to the Federal Government is not required, the difference between the amount of local, or State and local, funds the LEA should have expended and the amount that it did expend.  The SEA may then seek to recoup from the LEA, from non-Federal funds or funds for which accountability to the Federal Government is not required, the amount by which the LEA did not maintain effort.  Whether the SEA seeks recovery of those funds from the LEA is a matter of State discretion. 

Based on section 607(e) of the IDEA, we are informing you that our response is provided as informal guidance and is not legally binding, but represents an interpretation by the U.S. Department of Education of the IDEA in the context of the specific facts presented.

If you have additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact my office.



                                                            Melody Musgrove, Ed.D.
                                                            Office of Special Education Programs
[1] With respect to State-level maintenance of financial support, the IDEA specifically addresses what level of support the State must maintain in a year following a year in which the State fails to maintain its required level of support.  Section 612(a)(18)(D) provides that the State’s level of support remains the level “that would have been required in the absence of” the failure to maintain support. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Differences In How We Educate Low-Income And Higher-Income Students

"Low-income students need extra support and resources to succeed, but in far too many places, policies for assigning teachers and allocating resources are perpetuating the problem rather than solving it."
                                 - Secretary of Education Arne Duncan

Why does this happen?  Why do we send the most inexperienced and lowest-paid teachers to the neighborhoods most in need of help?  The article below addresses the issue.