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INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana lawmakers have set aside more state funding for special education and English language programs.

“Special education funding is a constant battle that we’re fighting,” said Linda Watkins, director of special services for Wayne Township schools.

“Age eligibility determines the funding that we get for each student, and some of those numbers have been stagnant since the ’90s,” she added.

That’s changing with the new two-year state budget. It provides a 5% increase for special education grants for each of the next two years. For students learning English as a second language, the grants per student will increase by 23%.

“It’ll allow us to recoup more special education teachers, allow school districts have the resources they need to recruit and retain special education teachers,” said Terry Spradlin, executive director of the Indiana School Boards Association.

It’s a welcome increase for many school districts, including the Greenfield-Central Community School Corporation. According to superintendent Harold Olin, the district has seen a significant increase in English language learners. The increased funding could help provide more staffing to teach those students, he said.

“That number has almost doubled for us from where it was two years ago,” Olin said. “So to have some supports in place there has been been very difficult for us to meet those needs.”

When it comes to special education, Kim Dodson of The Arc of Indiana is worried the increase isn’t enough, especially when considering inflation.

“It’s certainly not what it needs to be,” Dodson said. “We’re happy that the legislature saw the need to do something. But we really would love to see a more thoughtful approach to special education.”

Watkins said the additional state funding helps, but she acknowledged the field also needs more staff.

“It’s the actual people, the bodies that we are lacking right now,” Watkins said. “We have positions posted currently.”

The increased funding becomes available after the budget takes effect July 1.