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By F Edward Yazbak MD
The title of a report in the “Metro” section of the Boston Globe on May 29, 2013 was hard to miss:
"Boston schools seek $6m more for special ed
Rise in students with autism helps prompt increase"
“An increase in students being diagnosed with autism or other disabilities is driving up special education spending in Boston, prompting the School Department to request $6 million in supplemental funding.
The additional money is needed so the School Department can end the fiscal year in June with a balanced budget. The School Committee is scheduled to vote on the request at its June 5 meeting…
By April, 747 students with disabilities, including 158 on the autism spectrum, were enrolled in preschool, compared with 482 four years ago. …
Educating students with autism can be an intensive and expensive endeavor. The School Department limits preschool class sizes to no more than eight students with autism, and many of them also require working one-on-one with a behavioral specialist.
Nearly $5 million of the additional funding request would pay for behavioral specialists, most of whom are provided by private contractors. Over the next few years, in an effort to reduce costs, the School Department is planning to expand its staff of behavioral specialists.
Overall, 489 students across all grade levels this year are working with behavioral specialists, up from 205 last year…
School officials presented the spending request at last Wednesday’s School Committee meeting. None of the committee members raised concerns about approving the additional funding, an indication that passage is likely…” http://tinyurl.com/nk3eeou
The proposed 2014 Boston Public School (BPS) Budget will also contain a request for increased funding for several reasons that included:
The highest projected enrollment since 2005 of nearly 1,200 new students, “nearly half of whom have high-severity disabilities, reflecting a national trend.”
The allocation of “$30 million new dollars directly to schools through Weighted Student Funding.” http://www.bostonpublicschools.org/budget
The budget proposal includes the following under “Special Education”: “The FY14 budget increases the overall allocation for special education services by approximately $30 million. This allows us to serve an increasing number of students with disabilities in early grades while expanding high-quality programs in other grades – including two new inclusion schools and the planned future creation of an inclusion high school to create a K-12 pathway. We continue to closely examine our core spending obligations to better direct resources to serve students."
Boston is obviously not alone. The same proportion of students with autism and ASD is most likely evident nationwide and an equal strain on school budgets is undoubtedly being felt everywhere. The arrival of nearly half the new enrollees to US schools with “high-severity disabilities”, many of which are related to the autistic spectrum, is a tidal wave unlike any other.
Having served as a school physician in two school systems for 34 years, I can safely attest that we never had such a proportion of arriving special education (SPED) students in the past, many of whom requiring one-to-one attention.
An excellent discussion of Special Education Inclusion and the Federal Laws dealing with education of the disabled can be found at http://tinyurl.com/22m3dr7
For a general review of the “Weighted Student Funding” mentioned above, please see http://reason.org/files/wsf/overview.pdf
For a more focused and detailed review and analysis of “Weighted Student Funding” in the Boston Public Schools 2014 Budget, please see http://tinyurl.com/p5m85gf
Read the full post at Vaccination News.