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Lewiston, ME: "More students who require special education"; $7M increase next year

April 29, 2024, Fox23, Portland, ME: Maine school districts struggle with rising costs of special education

LEWISTON The price of getting special education students what they need keeps going up.

It's costing some districts hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not more.

Superintendents say they're seeing more students who require special education.

That, along with what happens when schools have to get them additional help, is all driving up the cost.


Lewiston Public Schools has special education, but some students require more than the district can offer.


“We already house almost 200 students with that level of need,” Lewiston Superintendent Jake Langlais said.


Those students then can go to “special purpose private schools,” which the districts pay for. As part of new rules last year, changes were made to how much is paid for. Instead of charging for the days a student is at that school, districts have to pay per child per year.


“I understand why that's needed, because if they hire people, they have to pay whether the student's there or not,” RSU 10 Superintendent Deb Alden said.


At the Rumford-area district, increased tuition costs are a big driver behind a 10 percent budget increase for special education next year. That, along with transportation.


“We know that trying to provide these programs within our public schools is a better model,” Alden said.


The Department of Education says it understands the placements are costly, and it's working with schools to develop and build their capacity to serve these students in the district, though a big challenge still remains.


 “It's very difficult to find the trained personnel and hire them,” Alden said.

The Lewiston Public School District is looking to increase its special education budget by roughly $7 million next year so it can serve more students instead of needing to place students elsewhere.

“Once those are up and running, we can have more kids be here,” Langlais said. “We'll still have the need for some students to be outplaced but provide more services where we can.”



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