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Henrico County, VA: District "struggling to pay for increasing number of children with disabilities"

Dec 26, 2018, (VA) Bacon’s Rebellion: Lawsuits, Fiscal Stress and the Autism Epidemic Gregory “Junior” Matthews, Jr., 16, has been diagnosed with severe autism. He is nonverbal and classified as disabled. Providing for his education is very expensive. His parents, who until recently lived in Henrico County, sought to send him to the Faison Center, which specializes in educating children with severe autism. But Henrico County balked at the cost — about $23,000 annually, covering about one-third of the tuition. The state covers the rest. The Henrico County School Board filed a lawsuit February to overturn a hearing officer’s decision that the county had not been meeting the boy’s needs and should pay to send him to a private school that could. Now a federal judge has dismissed the lawsuit, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch. School officials argued that the school had made progress working with young Matthews. But his parents, assisted by special education advocate Kandise Lucas, insisted that the special education arrangements were inadequate. … The RTD article touches upon the financial stakes involved for the Henrico County school system, which mirrors the challenges faced by school districts across Virginia. The county spent nearly $1 million last year handling special education disputes, ten times the sum spent in fiscal 2015. Concerned about the rising cost, the county hired an additional county attorney at the cost of $90,000 annually to focus on special education. The incidence of autism is increasing nationally, and it’s putting both families and school systems under increasing financial strain. … …At the same time, Henrico is struggling to pay for the increasing number of children with disabilities. In fiscal 2016, Henrico reported 6,563 students with disabilities, including 763 with autism. That’s up from 5,935 students with disabilities in 2001 and only 159 with autism….

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