Three states have requested -- and two states have been already been granted -- waivers to federal spending requirements for special education in what advocates say may be the first use of a economic-hardship provision of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The Education Department has approved requests from Kansas and Iowa but wants more details before ruling on an application from South Carolina. The IDEA law -- which aims to protect students with disabilities from fluctuations in state economies -- only allows for the waivers under "exceptional or uncontrollable circumstances such as a natural disaster or a precipitous and unforeseen decline in the financial resources of a state."

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