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Minnesota: 'Emergency' school funding; 16% of students receive SPED services

May 16, 2018, Southern Minn, Owatonna: As schools struggle with costs, special education takes a toll With the legislative session in its last full week, school funding is still a sticking point between lawmakers and Gov. Mark Dayton. The governor has made "emergency" school funds one of his central demands, citing the budget shortfalls facing many districts. One big driver of those shortfalls is special education. The category accounts for one-fifth of general-fund education spending in Minnesota, and its cost is rising. Districts spent a total of $2.2 billion on special education last year, an increase of 26 percent over a decade even after adjusting for inflation. Special education touches families in every part of the state. In total, 141,237 students receive the services for a wide range of reasons, including physical impairments, learning disabilities and behavioral issues. One student, Amy Baker's son Josh, found the support he needed for his autism … More students are receiving special education services than in the past. In 2016, 16.1 percent of Minnesota students received the services, up 1.3 percentage points over a decade. But it's not just that more students need help. The cost per student of delivering that help has also increased. … Still, one cost in particular keeps growing. Districts are billed for special education students who live in their district even if they don't go to school there. Whether it's a charter school or a school in another district, the school the student attends charges back at least 90 percent of costs not covered by state and federal funding. Charter schools and other entities that enroll more than 70 percent special education students bill back all unfunded costs. … Downham said Minneapolis' bill from charter schools has more than doubled since 2013, and the total cost from charters and other districts last year was $22.9 million. … It's not just Minnesota; Roza said special education costs are on the rise nationally. One way to control the increase, she said, is to talk more about it. She said principals and teachers don't tend to talk about the total price of services and ways to increase productivity. …

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