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Allentown, PA: ; $8M to educate students with autism;17% of students have special needs

Oct 8, 2019, Allentown (PA) Morning Call: Special needs, special costs: Lehigh Valley superintendents educate state panel nearing decision on ways to help The Southern Lehigh School District spent more than $1 million on services for eight special education students last year. That expense covered the specialized transportation, medical and behavioral needs students face, Superintendent Kathleen Evison told Pennsylvania’s special education funding commission on Tuesday, and said the costs escalate yearly…. …But Tuesday local superintendents said that while they’re grateful for those changes, it’s still not enough money to help students. … The number of students who are being designated as special education is increasing, superintendents said. And that means the cost of educating those students also balloons. Allentown, with 17% of its 17,000 students labeled special education, saw its special education costs skyrocket by $25 million between 2008 and 2018, but the state’s contribution to special education costs in Allentown increased by less than $2 million. Parker said the increase in special education costs has contributed to the district’s financial struggles. Last year, for example, Allentown spent more than $8 million to educate students with autism. Just one year later, the district had to spend $1 million more because it needed five more autistic support classrooms, totaling 44 autistic support classes from kindergarten through 12th grade. “Special education is a major cost-driver and a legally mandated expense,” Parker said. Parker asked that state lawmakers tweak the formula so that it keeps up with the number of students who are in special education. Sniscak shared how local taxpayers are footing the increased costs in the Parkland School District. In 2017-18, it cost Parkland almost $10 million to educate 33 students, whose education costs each exceeded $75,000. In 2013-14, only 15 students education costs each exceeded $75,000. While there is an increase in special education students who need more services, funding from the state for Parkland has remained constant under $4 million since 2013. Local funding, meanwhile, has kicked in between $12.7 million to $19.3 million yearly since 2013….


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