Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) funds have become an integral part of the funding of most special education programs, especially after five to seven years of no increases in funding experienced by special education providers. As a result, many programs have rethought how they utilize these supplemental funds. In the past, IDEA funds were used to support enrichment programs; such as art, music, dance, yoga, etc. While these are still a part of many programs, the level of funding dedicated to these types of programs is on the decline.
IDEA funds must be used to supplement programs, not supplant costs that are included in an organization’s tuition rate. As a result, programs cannot charge any Individualized Education Program (IEP) mandated costs to their IDEA grants; such as teachers, teacher assistants, therapists, etc. On the other hand, since they are not IEP mandated, such costs as Curriculum development, IEP coordination, staff supervision (e.g. supervising teacher or clinical coordination); behavioral support, staff training, etc. are allowable. So are the administration of services, such as clerical support to coordinate training, and IT support to develop student tracking or work on classroom technology. When spending funds for classroom functions, such as supplies, technology, playgrounds, etc., you need to keep in mind that IDEA funds are limited to children with special needs and should not be used to cover the costs of typically functioning children in an integrated classroom.
IDEA funds can also be used to cover sick time for fee for service Special Education Itinerant Teacher (SEIT) staff under the NY City sick pay regulations (since these are not funded under the SEIT rate), staff bonuses (performance based as well as sign-on or retention), or the cost of a parent liaison, intake coordinator, or transition coordinator. When completing your IDEA budget, you should make sure you properly reflect the cost of fringe benefits for your staff. Too often, we see salaries charged to the grants without the appropriate fringes to go with those salaries.
When determining your IDEA budget, you have a lot of flexibility. You should consider what you are trying to accomplish with the funds and how your IDEA funds integrate with your other special education funding. The better you plan these funds, the more likely that you can maximize the benefit to both your program and the special needs children you serve.