The Price for Inclusion: Financial/Educational Dilemmas in the Inclusive School System in Denmark
- What are the rationales of the “inclusion-promoting steering models” from the perspectives of the municipal and school leaders?
- What dilemmas does the model pose to school leaders?
2. Background—Introduction and Growth of the Model
“…schools rarely pay a noteworthy part of the expenditures for the students being referred to segregated special schools and classes. This means, that schools most often do not feel the expenditure-wise consequences for the municipality. The committee finds, that the high degree of segregation [of children from mainstream schools to special support venues] might be due to the fact that it is costly for schools to include students with special needs, and, at the same time, free of charge to seek that these students are transferred to segregated special schools and classes. In other words, the steering- and budget models are a contributing cause…”(, p. 25).
“The budget models in the 12 municipalities are fairly centralised, and none of the municipalities have fully decentralised the financial responsibility for special educational support to the schools. Because of this, the present models do evidently not encourage schools to include students”(Ibid., p. 18)
“The committee suggests that (…) the municipalities to a greater extent lets the schools pay a part of the expenditures to the students being referred to segregated support [in special schools or special classes] which is accompanied by a previous increased decentralisation of the budgets”(Ibid., p. 25).
“The results indicate that local responses to state incentives play an important role in determining the ultimate size of special education programs, and therefore, in determining the allocation of resources within and across schools. I find that a 10% increase in the supplemental revenue generated by a disabled student leads to approximately a 2% increase in the fraction of students classified as disabled”(, p. 1559).
“State funding systems are having a dramatic effect on special education enrollment rates. In states where schools had a financial incentive to identify more students as disabled and place them in special education, the percentage of all students enrolled in special education grew significantly more rapidly over the past decade”(, p. 8).
“… changes in the price of special education have a negative effect on disability rates and a negative effect on total state special education classification. In other words, when the price of special education increases, as it did for all districts in California, the quantity of students classified as disabled falls”(, p. 64).
3. Data and Methods
4. Results of the Study
4.1. Rationales of the “Inclusion-Promoting” Budget Model as Accounted by the Leaders
“Every time they cannot make it work in their school, they have to pay this price for it.”(Municipal administrative leader, Municipality 1, 2020, p. 8)
“It is also a part of the incentives of the model that instead of spending DKR 250.000 [about USD 33.300—the price in this particular municipality] off with a student (…) we might, if we have a few students with similar needs, spend the money more effectively in house. In fact, that is the core of steering logic. We should act in this way. It is a common practice.”(School leader, Municipality 3, 2019, p. 4)
“I think that we are inventing hybrid models [between mainstream school and special school] at the local level (…) and we are actually quite good at changing form and structure all the time, based on the needs of the children”(School leader, Municipality 3, 2019, p. 1).
“… regardless of whether you like it, there are no incentives in the structure at all … it does not cost the schools anything to send in an application to the referral committee. This means that there is nothing—you are basically not animated to say “Could we do something else, that is, make some efforts, some [support in school]” (…) It is free of charge to send a Christian into referral and have him removed [from mainstream school] … the money, that at present is lying here with me [at the municipal level], you know, it should be out, working (…) in mainstream schools”(Municipal administrative leader, Municipality 2, December 2020, p. 3–4).
“… our financial incentives are horrible, you know, the only thing that pays off is to send a child into a special school. You do not want to put money on the table yourself. (…) This means that it is totally and completely free for a school leader to segregate a child.”(Municipal administrative leader, Municipality 4, 2019, p. 8)
“In those cases, you might say: (…) Are we actually ourselves producing some of the children that are not thriving?”(Ibid., p. 5)
4.2. Dilemmas of the “Inclusion-Promoting” Budget Model as Accounted by the Leaders
“…some [school leaders] move more children [to special schools or classes] than they can afford. (…) And the problem is that if you get a negative result on the bottom line, or get close to zero, then you are not able to invest in building [inclusive] environments in your school. This turns into a vicious circle because it means that you are going to send even more students to special support premises. (…) If they don’t control that part of the economy, then it is going to have severe consequences for their ordinary classes.”(Municipal administrative leader, Municipality 5, 2019, p. 5)
“… the economy is not enough regarding the needs. This means that co-teaching in the ordinary classes … [pauses]. Early on, we had more lessons with two teachers, but they were pulled out and sent to [the special support groups]. Actually, all resources for co-teaching and division of classes during lessons and so on have gone into [the special support groups]. This means that, as a student in an ordinary class with 26 students, you must be in the large group the whole time. This becomes a problem for some of the students, with the result that we indirectly exclude some over time.”(School leader, Municipality 6, 2019, p. 3)
“In a direct manner, you can say that it might be the children who pay for some of this. The well-functioning children—that is. For in this setup, it is all the children with difficulties who receive the support that they should have—so the money wanders in that direction, you might say.”(School leader, Municipality 18, 2021, p. 5)
“It makes me fear for the future of the common school … that the children who are just competent in the school subjects and function well in the social peer groups will not be able to receive enough because all of the resources go to the special area. (…) How are you supposed to stimulate the skilled students when all the time goes to the ones with problems? (…) The [special support groups] swallow up everything …”(School leader, Municipality 18, 2021, p. 7)
“The intention [with decentralising the budget to the schools] was also that the municipality was not able to control the economy. Now, the pressure that used to lie at the municipal level has been shifted out on the school. Now, WE are caught in the dilemma.”(School leader, Municipality 8, 2019, p. 1).
“But I simply have not … I do not have … I am not competent to make this decision on my own”(School leader, Municipality 18, 2021, p. 9).
“You know, I do not have the competencies to say what kind of accommodation [the student needs]. So it makes me sit here, like, helpless and, of course, I can make a wild guess—well, then I will place the child here. However, I really need someone who, with stronger competencies within the field, is able to say, ‘This is what we will do’. In this respect, we are challenged by the way we have organised things today, I think”(School leader, Municipality 18, 2021, p. 10).
5. Concluding Discussion—Pros and Cons of the Decentralised Model
- When school leaders pay for support outside of their own budget, they become less inclined to refer students to support outside the school.
- Decentralised funds can be invested in creating inclusive learning environments in mainstream schools instead of the budget lying as a passive resource at the municipal level.
- This model causes it to be possible to accommodate the learning environment to students’ needs earlier on and prevent some of the situations that might mean that a student has to be removed from a mainstream classroom to more specialised support outside the mainstream classroom.
- If the school leader moves more students to special support than the decentralised budget can bear, the school might end up in a situation in which they have to cut back the budget of mainstream classes to finance the support group.
- This means that mainstream school students may ultimately pay the price for other students’ support. In addition, it means that the possibilities for attending to students’ different needs within mainstream classes are limited, leading to an increase in some students’ needs to a point where they also need to be removed from the mainstream class.
- As mentioned by the school leaders themselves, not all school leaders have the required competencies to make qualified decisions regarding what accommodations and arrangements will meet the needs of all students. This means that decentralising the budget leads to a risk of less qualified decisions regarding educational support compared to the decisions of the specialised group of professionals typically found on municipal referral boards.
Conflicts of Interest
|(…)||Some talk is left out|
|UPPER CASE||Loud or animated talk|
|[Comment]||Comments, e.g., gestures, short explanations|
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Tegtmejer, T. The Price for Inclusion: Financial/Educational Dilemmas in the Inclusive School System in Denmark. Educ. Sci. 2022, 12, 832. https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci12110832
Tegtmejer T. The Price for Inclusion: Financial/Educational Dilemmas in the Inclusive School System in Denmark. Education Sciences. 2022; 12(11):832. https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci12110832Chicago/Turabian Style
Tegtmejer, Thyge. 2022. "The Price for Inclusion: Financial/Educational Dilemmas in the Inclusive School System in Denmark" Education Sciences 12, no. 11: 832. https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci12110832