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.