A federal appeals court on Wednesday upheld a $33 million penalty against Texas for the state’s decision to spend about that amount less in special education funding in 2012.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans ruled that a Texas decision to cut spending for students with disabilities by $33.3 million warranted a federal penalty, The Texas Tribune reported in a news story published the same day.
The appellate court rejected Texas’s argument that it spent less in 2012 because the state’s special education programs had been so successful that fewer students required such services — what is known as a “weighted-student” funding system. The panel went beyond that to also suggest that Texas might be minimizing its students’ needs in order to justify spending cuts.
“The weighted-student model creates a perverse incentive for a state to escape its financial obligations merely by minimizing the special education needs of it students,” The Tribune wrote, quoting from Judge Jerry Smith’s written opinion.
Instead, the court accepted the federal government’s position that states cannot use federal funding to decrease their own budgets rather than providing more services.
The court also required Texas to pay court costs. Attorneys for the state did not say whether an appeal is planned.