June 19, 2018, WGBH Boston: Special Education Costs Force Some Districts To Cut Elsewhere https://www.wgbh.org/news/education/2018/06/19/special-education-costs-force-some-districts-to-cut-elsewhere …Massachusetts has a higher incidence of children like J.P. than in other states. Children with multiple disabilities make up .5 percent of the school population, while the national average is half that. That’s one reason special education costs are soaring. The law requires schools to pay for these services, so schools look to other programs to cut. Districts have cut sports, music, after-school programs, even teachers. So why are there more of these students in Massachusetts than in other states? “More low-birthweight babies survive, and many, but not all of those kids do have disabilities,” explained Thomas Hehir, an education professor at Harvard. They survive at higher rates in Massachusetts, Hehir suggested, because of our state’s health care system…. The gap between what the state reimburses districts for special education and what it actually costs amounts to $1.2 billion, according to the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center. Districts with strong tax bases can make up the difference on their own, but less wealthy districts have had to cut programs, said Noah Berger, the center's president…. “When you starve a school for that long, and you cut and cut and cut to the point where you’re talking about Granby, Massachusetts having 27, 28 kids in a classroom, this is crazy,” Curran said. This year, the schools in Granby won’t be cutting teachers. The town government agreed to kick in nearly $400,000 to close the budget gap. Curran and other leaders in Granby hope lawmakers will change the school funding formula so it covers what the actual cost of special education.
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