Analysis of New Jersey special education funding allocations: Student classification, placement, and cost

Carol Ann Fredericks, Fordham University


School leaders must make critical decisions regarding allocation of resources to provide the best education to all students in public schools. One of the fastest rising and most difficult to control areas of expenditure is special education. The purpose of this mixed-method study was to explore the relationship between various student special education placements and costs. Historical cost data for the years 2002, 2003, and 2004, obtained from the New Jersey Department of Education, was analyzed to determine if associations existed between district size and spending changes. District size was examined to determine whether district size is a predictor of district spending. This study found significant differences in spending depending on size of the district. Small district tuition expenditures were found to be a predictor of in-district special education spending, followed by medium-size districts. Large districts had the least predictor values. Additionally, five school business administrators were interviewed to gain additional insight into the budget, allocation, and placement decision-making process. Their responses helped to clarify pressures faced in the allocation and placement process and future visions of public education. The study also resulted in a finding that small school districts have the lowest per-pupil special education costs for both in-district and out-of-district students. Thus, they are the most efficient yet the most affected by changes in costs and placements. Small districts have been driven to the brink of extinction by frozen state funding. Recommendations for improvement include a state-level child study team to review disputes and take the burden of litigation off individual districts. Small districts should be recognized for the quality, efficiency, and value that they add to the educational offerings in New Jersey. The state should devise a way to fund special education on the basis of need, rather than district wealth or size. Finally, state funding should support all students in regular and special education programs so that one group is not vying against another for a share of the funding dollars at the detriment of the other group.

Subject Area

School finance|School administration|Special education

Recommended Citation

Fredericks, Carol Ann, "Analysis of New Jersey special education funding allocations: Student classification, placement, and cost" (2007). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3262834.