Danbury, CT: SPED costing more; could it be "better identification"?

Jan 27, 2018, Danbury (CT) News Times: Special education costs rise for many Danbury-area districts Across the Danbury area, special education costs are rising as more students with disabilities are sent out of their home districts to get the services they need. ... Although officials caution that there is no data to suggest a trend or give specific reasons, some school superintendents said the rise in outplacements may be connected to better identification of children who need those services. Recently, superintendents in Brookfield, New Milford, New Fairfield, Redding and Ridgefield have all asked for higher special education budgets for the 2018-19 school year. Brookfield and Ridgefield are also struggling to find ways to fund the current school year’s special education services. Both districts hope to get special appropriations to cover their budget overruns. … Rebecca Adams, a senior staff attorney for the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education, said special education costs in general are continuously rising across the state. But she has not noted a statewide trend in the past 15 years of more students needing to be placed out of their home districts. … The costs of services can also differ greatly for each student, ranging from tens of thousands of dollars to six figures. … “Kids and families move around the state frequently,” Adams said. “We’re not seeing that suddenly more students are needing outplacements.” Brookfield Superintendent John Barile said the rise in students sent out of the district could be a combination of increased needs in children and better identification. “The district is very careful to make sure we’re accurately identifying student needs and, at the same time, demographics are also changing,” he said. Baldwin said Ridgefield’s improved methods of evaluating students with disabilities and recent legislation on the identification of certain disabilities could be affecting the 3 percent increase in Ridgefield’s special education population over the past seven years. She cautioned the district will need to do a thorough analysis to be sure. “There is a possibility that through the professional learning and incoming resources and stronger evaluation, that we’re capturing more children that have a disability,” Baldwin said. The district is projecting 23 students will need to be sent out of Ridgefield next academic year, costing the district $2.35 million. … Recently, Bethel has focused on addressing students’ social-emotional needs, and has long had a program for autistic students.