Chapter 10.1


What is Special Education?

School districts provided special education programs and services to approximately 308,00 students across the Commonwealth in 2016-17, representing about 17.9% of all students educated in Pennsylvania.

State and federal law govern the provision of special education programs and services to eligible students, and school districts must provide special education instruction pursuant to a student’s Individualized Education Plan—or IEP.
Special education programs and services encompass everything from special education classroom instruction, to specialized transportation, psychological and counseling services, speech therapy, physical or occupational therapy, vision services, hearing services, nursing services, para-professional services, specialized equipment, assistive technology and private or specialized placements.
If a program or service is required by a student’s IEP, the school district must pay for it, regardless of the cost. As a result, special education is one of the largest areas of cost growth for school districts, with special education instructional expenditures growing by more than $1 billion between 2011-12 and 2016-17. School districts budgeted more than $4.6 billion in special education instructional costs for 2018-19.
School districts do receive federal and state funding for special education. School districts receive more than $240 million from the federal government for special education programs and more than $1 billion from the state.
Click on the map to view the amount of state special education funding for each school district in comparison to special education expenditures in each school district.