It’s no secret that most school districts across the United States are seeing an increase in the number of students who qualify for special education services. When the numbers increase, this means that additional money will be needed. Schools will tell you that part of the problem in keeping up with the cost of special education is the gap in payments from the state level. The formulas used to figure out the money given just doesn’t keep up with unfunded mandates.
Increasing Needs of Different Services
When a child is recognized as a student with a disability and given special education services, there is a lot more going on behind the scenes. Typically, they receive other services based on their needs under the special education umbrella.
Many autistic students receive speech and occupational therapy to assist with sensory concerns. This may be in addition to a resource room, where they can work on executive function concerns and more. Other students with multiple disabilities may require a personal aide, sessions with the school social worker, and more.
Once within an individual education plan that has been approved, the district is responsible to make the services available to the child. All of these come at a cost to the district. If additional funding is not available, they must move funding around to be in compliance.
Shifting Money Within Budgets
Since you cannot deny services within an IEP, the school district must make up the money in one way or another. Some are able to fill the gap with their tax base, but this is not always a possibility in some communities. When this happens, cuts must be made.
The cuts which are made happen in a variety of different ways. Some districts are forced to remove music, spots, and other after-school programs. Many times, teachers are reduced because their salaries are able to bridge the gap faster. When this happens, class sizes increase. Instead of 23 children in a classroom, there may be close to 30. This also has a negative impact on the children because they are not able to work with the adult in the room as closely with more peers.
Special education committees need to reach out to families and go to lawmakers. Together they can work on making sure that the politicians work on getting more fair funding for schools and therapists. This means factoring in increased cost per student with special needs. Be able to bring examples of what is needed and how it helps the children. If they are able to see why higher class size is detrimental for all kids, it may strengthen your fight.
How has your school district managed the increased cost of special education needs for students? Please share ways in which you have worked to increase funding that is available for your schools.