Dr. Peter Hotez: Were You There?
Ginger Taylor in Maine Press Herald: Breakdown in accountability at heart of decline in vaccinations

Special Education is the Wall We Should Worry About In USA and Abroad

Somali MN ed crisis
Brian Peterson, Star Tribune

Note: Harsh words in that headline? Maybe. The wall is divisive enough. It's tangible and easy to make a fast mental picture. Special Education is not as easy to imagine.  Special Education will pit parent against parent. From our Anne Dachel, a story that ran yesterday from Minnesota. Years ago, we began reporting on the catastrophic birth of autism within the Somali immigrant population.  Dec 17, 2013, MinnPost.com: Autism highest among Minneapolis' Somali and white children, U study finds Take note of the beautiful child in the photo. Somali.

"We don't need no education. We don't need no thought control." Pink Floyd


By Anne Dachel

Saturday, Jan 19, the Minneapolis Star Tribune posted a very concerning piece online entitled, Minnesota schools facing 'crisis level' in special education funding

It was featured on the front page of the Sunday Star Tribune.

The COST of special education is increasingly a financial calamity for schools in the state with no signs of leveling off.

The response to this headline from any thinking person would be, why? Why is the cost of SPED now a crisis?

Of course school districts have no choice but to address this because the federal government mandates that they provide a free and appropriate education for every student, even the most disabled children.

The Star Tribune reported:

School administrators say the mandate's growing financial burden is threatening their ability to provide the same for all students. 

Soaring special education costs are squeezing the budgets of Minnesota schools — and quickly becoming school districts’ top priority for the new legislative session.

School administrators are quick to note that they cannot — and would not — deny special education students their right to an education that meets their needs, no matter the cost. But they say the mandate’s growing financial burden is threatening their ability to provide the same for all students.

So what happens when the cost of SPED students sucks dry the funds for regular ed kids?

For many districts, that exercise has become increasingly painful, resulting in teacher layoffs, program cuts and swelling class sizes. School administrators are quick to note that they cannot — and would not — deny special education students their right to an education that meets their needs, no matter the cost. But they say the mandate’s growing financial burden is threatening their ability to provide the same for all students.

 “Districts are taking ever-increasing amounts of money out of their general education funds to pay for special education costs,” said Brad Lundell, executive director of Schools for Equity in Education, a group that represents nearly 60 districts across the state. “And that, I think, is reaching a crisis level in the state.”

Still, nothing is really wrong. Buried in the article are references to the undeniable fact that there are more (severely) disabled children requiring costly services.

But it’s not enough: more Minnesota students are requiring special education services, including a growing number with particularly complex medical, mental health or behavioral needs. The cost to serve them is rising at a faster rate than the overall costs of education, and the federal government isn’t responding in kind.

Josh Downham, a lobbyist for Minneapolis Public Schools, said the district’s annual payout for special education students who don’t attend Minneapolis schools now tops $22 million. That number has surged in recent years, particularly in the amount of money billed by charter schools serving Minneapolis students.

Downham said charter school billing has more than doubled in the past four years — a far greater increase than the number of special education students open enrolling to those schools.

There is no explanation given when we’re told that more sick children are causing massive gaps in the school budget. What if the increases continue to get worse?

It’s not an issue. We’re conditioned to never ask why.

It also serves a growing number of students with severe and complicated medical needs, including some whose costs can add up to around $100,000 each year.

All told, Minneapolis has the state’s largest special education funding gap: $55.3 million, or about $1,400 for every student in the district.

The state legislature is going to have to address this. Perhaps someone in St. Paul will be interested in WHY there are more and more and more costly students—no end in sight.

As the new legislative session begins, Downham said the district is pushing hard for bills that would address the funding gap and the inequities some see in how the state distributes its share.

“It is by far our No. 1 priority at the State Capitol,” he said.

***This mirrors what’s happening in the U.K. Here’s just a sample from my website    :

Jan 19, 2019, (UK) East Anglican Daily Times: Suffolk SEND team unveils action plan 

Jan 18, 2019, (UK) Norwich Evening News: ‘Cliff edge’ warning as Norfolk County Council’s budget black hole widens to £70m [$90M US dollars]

Jan 18, 2019, (UK) Bucks Herald: Just one school place costs the council and Government £28,000

Jan 18, 2019, (UK) Daily Mail: Councils claim schools are 'coercing' parents to home-educate children in a bid to avoid excluding them - as number of UK pupils rejecting classroom hits record high of 52,000 last year 

Jan 17, 2019, (UK) Kent Online: Aspire School for children with special needs being built in Sittingbourne 

Jan 17, 2019, (UK) Guardian: Schools pushing children into home schooling, say councils

Jan 10, 2019, (UK) Gov.UK: New free schools to benefit children with additional needs

Pupils with complex needs to benefit from more than 120 new school places 

Jan 11, 2019, (UK) LocalGov.com: Whitehall opens two free schools for SEND children

Jan 10, 2019, (UK) West Sussex County Times: Horsham school leaders meet to discuss funding crisis in education

Jan 9, 2019, (UK) Ripley and Heanor News: Derbyshire families share struggle to gain special education support for their children

Jan 8, 2019, (UK) Leicestershire Live: Leicestershire council taking £20m plans to shake-up special educational needs and disabilities provision around county

Anne Dachel is Media Editor for Age of Autism.




Bob Moffit

How much longer can it go on … by "it" I mean the absolute refusal to admit the ever increasing childhood development problems suffering by today's generation can only be explained by acknowledging "something" in the environment today is CAUSING IT.


Again .. how much longer can "it" go on …. until the BAND STOPS PLAYING.


I agree with Susan!! Anne Dachel's thorough and relentless coverage of soaring epidemic rates of special education cost is the evidence that will indict the Denialists. Their days of denial are numbered. JLW's compelling write-up is convincing.

susan welch


This is a really excellent post which includes the incredible work that Anne does.

So much recent, thorough, research seems to be coming together at the moment. As James says in his post, 'To me, the days of vaccine injury and denialism seem numbered'.

I suspect the people who have been covering this up for so many years must be feeling very uncomfortable at the moment.

I wish I could be a fly on the wall!

Barry Stern

Children with disabilities in most of the country are suffering from the public-school monopoly of special education. Since revenues from taxpayers are not keeping up with the increasing number of children with disabilities, many districts are cutting back on special ed services. Their major “savings” result from hiring fewer high-quality therapists and teachers especially for those with expensive to treat neurological disabilities like autism. These schools oftentimes replace intensive 1:1 instruction with small group classes which are usually ineffective leaving these unfortunate youngsters further behind. Once these kids leave school they usually are unemployable, becoming financial burdens to their parents or wards of the state at a lifetime cost of $2-$3 million each. This is scary! This scenario is already bankrupting many parents. It could bankrupt states as well, and they know it. Their answer: continue to “kick the can down the road” and not take responsibility until it pits special ed parents (the 15%) against parents of kids without disabilities (the 85%).

Increasingly, the special ed law passed in 1974 is not working as intended. Districts have lawyered up to fight parents seeking better educational options for their children. Some districts like Chicago have used high priced legal and accounting firms to develop complex, well-hidden procedures that reduce special ed costs by denying or delaying services and to hide where the money goes (see https://abilitychicagoinfo.blogspot.com/2017/10/chicago-public-schools-cps-secretly.html )

While school-hired law and accounting firms are making money, many special ed students suffer from neglect, abuse or a really bad education. Part of the problem is that schools have a major conflict of interest. They provide all three functions for special ed: (1) diagnosis, (2) prescription (IEP), and (3) filling the prescription (therapy/education). One way to break up their monopoly while gaining more cost-effectiveness is to split up these three functions amongst different agencies. Schools currently do it all, and they often misuse funds to keep costs down especially during hard times.

Suppose schools were to only fill prescriptions while a state agency would diagnose and prescribe and then dole out enough funds to a school applicant to adequately fulfill the child’s prescription (IEP). If the parents disagree that the school applicants can do the job with current staff and programs, they could opt to use these state funds to hire their child's therapists and teachers, as suggested here:

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