A welcomed improvement to the school finance system would be the creation of a dyslexia allotment to help districts properly serve students receiving “Section 504” service (a plan developed to ensure that a child who has a disability identified under the Rehabilitation Act receives services and accommodations needed to successfully learn). Currently, districts do not receive direct funding to support students with dyslexia and related disorders when they receive services under Section 504 and not the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). (New guidance on whether to provide 504 or IDEA services was provided by TEA after a federal audit of Texas special education services last year.)
The Texas Commission on Public School Finance Expenditures Working Group found that during the 2017-2018 school year, less than 2.5 percent of students (approximately 165,000) received services for dyslexia and related services. However, although the exact rate of dyslexia is uncertain, it’s estimated that among the student population it is at least 5 percent and as high as 17 percent.
Districts are already providing the additional supports needed for these students, but districts are not receiving any additional funds from the state. The additional funding recommended by the working group will help districts to provide early identification and intervention that can improve the academic success of students with dyslexia. The annual cost to the state would be $100 million for a weight of 0.1.
Recommendation for a new early childhood allotment
The positive impact of high-quality early childhood programs on children’s success in school and beyond has been well documented. Many studies have demonstrated the importance of the early years for the developing brain. And over the past four decades, numerous studies—including the Perry Preschool Study, the Abecedarian Project, the Chicago Longitudinal Study and the Cost, Quality, and Child Outcomes Study—have shown that high-quality early childhood education increases the likelihood that children, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, will become successful students and citizens.
A critically important improvement to the school finance system would be providing additional funding to districts for economically disadvantaged and ESL students in kindergarten through 3rd grade. The working group intends for the funding to be sufficient to allow districts to provide full-day pre-Kindergarten to all eligible students.
The new early childhood weight would be 0.10, at an annual cost to the state of $780 million.