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Pennsylvania: SPED spending up 51% in 8 yrs; as student pop. decreases more SPED students

Oct 29, 2018, Allentown (PA) Morning Call: SPECIAL REPORT: As costs skyrocket, Pennsylvania's share of special education funding has fallen …According to a new report by the Education Law Center and the statewide coalition PA Schools Work, spending on special education has risen among the state’s 500 school districts. But the study says state funding has failed to keep up with rising costs, creating an ever-widening funding gap. Spending across the commonwealth on special education increased 51 percent to $4,545,979,595 between 2008-09 and 2016-17. Meanwhile, the state’s share rose 7 percent to $1,041,792,660, over the same period, according to a Morning Call analysis of the study’s data…. Why special ed costs are rising School funding experts point to three reasons for the rise in special education costs: A jump in the number of special education students, teacher training for inclusive classrooms and advances in technology used to aid special education students. According to a report by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, total school enrollment across the state has dropped 2.6 percent. But the number of those enrolled who qualify for special education increased by 2.1 percent between the 2010-11 and 2015-16. … Integrating special education students into general education classrooms requires more training and professional development for teachers. It can also mean bringing in one-on-one student aides and next-generation technology that caters to the challenges of an individual student. … Reynelle Brown Staley, a policy attorney with the Education Law Center, said the state funding has increased about 1 percent each year — below the rate of inflation. Meanwhile, special education costs have been creeping up about 5 percent annually, Staley said. That means schools experiencing the widest gap between state aid and special education costs have to reach into other parts of their budget, consider raising taxes or forego some of the needs of already vulnerable students, Staley said. … She welcomed Wolf’s efforts, but said “the increases just haven’t been significant enough to match the rate of increase or make up for the preceding years when there was no increase at all.”… Bethlehem’s Gober said the amount being appropriated is still not enough. “The state has made some improvements, but the pace is not adequate,” she said. “The recovery gap is just so large.”…

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