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MA: SPED-"both need and cost have risen"; state spends $1.7B on "out-of-district costs"

July 22, 2018, North Andover (MA) Eagle Tribune: Surging costs prompt new approach to school funding http://www.eagletribune.com/news/surging-costs-prompt-new-approach-to-school-funding/article_2b4eb7e4-8c55-11e8-bdaf-27be3845c80f.html … Last week, the House approved spending $500 million over the next five years to help districts better cover the costs of special education and employee health care. ... Special education costs contributed to a nearly $4 million school budget deficit in Methuen last year. ... In fiscal 2018, the district covered costs for 136 special needs students in residential, private day or collaborative programs -- about 25 more students than during the prior year. About 1,400 students are also on individualized education programs. The district serves about 7,200 students. [19% are SPED] By April, Scannell said the district had exceeded its roughly $7.5 million budget for special education services, resulting in a nearly $4 million deficit. Communities cannot legally run a deficit for any budget item besides snow and ice removal, so Methuen officials are now working to submit a home rule petition to the Legislature that would allow the city to borrow in order to cover the deficit. The plan differs from a Senate proposal approved in May, which included funds for those two groups of students…. The commission found the state’s approach to education funding woefully underestimating costs for school districts…. In the meantime, education officials in many districts say costs of special education —- for students with autism spectrum disorders, for example, or who have emotional problems -- have risen sharply. Districts are legally obliged to provide services to those students, and many have cut budgets in other areas as both need and costs have risen. The pains of special education costs — along with some of the widest gaps in education funding — are felt in school districts that serve gateway cities such as Salem, Peabody, Methuen and Haverhill. "Districts are struggling to do what they can with the resources they have to educate students," Scott said. "But the law is clear. They don't have a choice." Out-of-District Costs (2016-17) Rank School District Out of District Costs 1 Boston $234.1 million 2 Springfield $68 million 3 Worcester $51.6 million 4 Lawrence $34.4 million 17 Haverhill $16.3 million 26 Methuen $11.8 million 45 Andover $8.0 million 57 North Andover $7.0 million 176 North Reading $2.4 million 257 Greater Lawrence Regional $531,000 296 Whittier Regional $83,000 State Total $1.7 billion…