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AZ: "Growing number" of severe SPED students costing millions for private placement

Aug 13, 2018, KJZZ Radio, Tempe, AZ: For Growing Number Of Arizona Special Education Students, Private School Is Paid By Public Districts In special circumstances, Arizona public school districts pay for special education students to attend private schools. The number of kids in these placements has almost doubled in the last four years at the Arizona’s largest school district. Statewide there’s been a steady increase over the same time period. The situation is called a “private day placement.” It’s the highest level of intervention for a child with developmental, learning or other types of disability…. The most severe intervention outlined in an IEP to provide this is sending a child to a private school, while the public school system pays the bill. “There aren’t any students who are ever placed in private placement because we can’t teach them,” said Katherine Minard, the special education director at the Tempe Union High School District, Conor’s home district. “We can teach them. What happens is their behavior is a danger to themselves or others.” … “The students that attend this program have been identified with emotional disabilities that interfere with their ability to be successful in the typical school setting,” wrote Maura Clark-Ingle, director for exceptional education in the Tucson Unified School District. The Menta Group is a nonprofit that contracts with more than a dozen school districts to provide more intense special education services on their own campuses and at outside locations…. Overall, Arizona districts are sending more special education students to private schools than before. There were 2,455 students in private day placements in the 2017/2018 school year, the highest numbers since 2015/2015 when 2,016 students were placed out of their district. The growing Queen Creek Unified School Districtplaced about a dozen students in private school last year at the cost of $181 per day. The Arizona Republic reported private school placements can cost $30,000 to $45,000 a year, plus transportation. The state’s largest school district, Mesa Public Schools, placed almost double the number of students (162) in private schools as it did four years ago (91). The district contracts with the Menta Group to provide services on-campus, but that program has reached capacity. Tuition and transportation to send children to private schools outside the district cost the district $2,273,051 last year… There’s a “sensory room” where students can go to release energy by, for example, jumping on a trampoline, or to calm down by turning down the lights and listening to music….

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