Special Education:

Grant Programs Designed to Serve Children Ages 0-5

GAO-02-394: Published: Apr 25, 2002. Publicly Released: Apr 25, 2002.

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In fiscal year 2001, the federal government spent $7 billion on the following three special education grant programs: Special Education Grants to States (School-age Grants), Special Education Grants Preschool (Preschool Grants) and Special Education Grants for Infants and Families with Disabilities (Infants Grants). School-age and Preschool Grants are similar, except for the age ranges served, while Infant Grants differ in goals, performance objectives, performance measures, eligibility, and services. The key distinction between School-Age and Preschool Grants is that School-age Grants serve children ages three through 21, whereas Preschool Grants serve only children ages three through five. States receive funds from all three grants, and some states report they use both School-age and Preschool funds to provide the same range of services to children aged three through five. Although states receive funds from all three grants, local agencies may receive funds from only one grant, or from all three. Eighteen of the 19 states GAO reviewed reported that the range of services they provide to children ages three through five is the same as those they provide with Preschool Grants. Evaluations show that half the children who received preschool services (mainly speech and language therapy) no longer needed them on reaching school age. Consolidating the two grants would eliminate coordination problems, but it is unclear whether program efficiency would increase. At the federal level, Education is already administering School-age and Preschool Grants as one program. State and local officials said that consolidation would not significantly reduce administrative burden.

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