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*Longview, WA: SPED costs 'unsustainable' for school districts

Sept 2, 2017, DTN.com, Longview, WA: Districts see 'unsustainable' special education funding crisis looming http://tdn.com/news/local/districts-see-unsustainable-special-education-funding-crisis-looming/article_3c7c597f-e500-55bc-9933-64780c06aea6.html The Kelso School District passed its $62 million budget for the new school year on Aug. 14 and the Longview School District followed suit with an $87 million budget two weeks later. ... But looking forward, there’s still a high level of uncertainty that’s clouding one area in particular: special education. As part of lawmakers’ solution to the state Supreme Court’s McCleary decision, the Legislature increased the amount of money it gives local districts for children with special needs.... Lawmakers increased the cap on state funding for special education from 12.7 percent of a district’s student population to 13.5 percent. That means if more than 13.5 percent of a district’s enrolled students have a learning disability, the district has to shoulder those costs. And the price of special education has spiked in recent years as research has allowed educators to identify more students with special learning needs…. “We've just seen our costs go through the roof with special education in the last couple years,” said Scott Westlund, executive director of business and operations for the Kelso School District. “If that continues to grow and we have to continue to use local funds to do that, it's not going to be sustainable,” he said. Increasing costs Part of the reason why special education costs have risen so much over the past several years is due to an increase in the number of children with complex needs. According to Longview Special Education Director Elizabeth West, the number of children with behavioral and mental health needs has increased dramatically in relation to the number of children with learning disabilities. “We're seeing a lot more complex children and those are the children that have increased funding needs,” she said. Even with stable enrollment, the Kelso School District hired 10 more special education staff this year to meet its students’ special education needs, Westlund said....