COLUMBIA — South Carolina schools chief Mick Zais has asked for a speedy hearing on the U.S. Department of Education’s decision to withhold $36 million from the state as a punishment for not spending enough on special education in 2009-10.

The federal agency delayed punishment until October 2012 to give the state time to prepare for the funding cut.

But Zais is appealing the ruling. His latest motion asked for an expedited hearing. He says he must turn in his 2012-13 budget request to Gov. Nikki Haley by Sept. 30 and needs to know the appeal’s outcome.

Zais argues the entire penalty should be waived, or at the very least be a one-time cut, rather than continue perpetually.

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A spokeswoman for the department did not immediately respond to a request seeking comment.