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Reading, MA: SPED is a "challenge across the state...only getting worse"

Jan 17, 2019, Patch Reading MA: Reading School Committee Hears Growing Needs Of Special Ed https://patch.com/massachusetts/reading/reading-school-committee-hears-growing-needs-special-ed The Reading School Committee, minus one member along with much of the emotion of a year ago, continued its budget work at the RMHS Schettini Library Thursday night. The Regular Day and Special Education budgets for FY2020 were the focus of a three-hour meeting that was held minus Sherri VandenAkker, who resigned from the committee last week. Also missing were many of the parents and teachers who filled the room a year ago when proposed cuts fueled a passionate response. When Reading passed its override last April it meant $2,654,969 additional dollars for the school system. This year's message to the town is much different than last winter. … That doesn't mean Reading doesn't face challenges, especially when it comes to the growing cost of special education. Of the five cost centers, special ed has the largest increase. The $14,927,638 request is 7.4 percent above last year. Regular Day, which comprises 58.1 percent of the budget, asked for $27,0115,632, an increase of 1.4 percent. "We are spending tax payer's dollars, we understand that, we get it," said Sharon Stewart, Interim Director of Student Services. From cost of living adjustments, to the need for additional staff, to increases in out-of-district tuition and transportation, special education is a challenge for school systems across the state and it's only getting worse. Even with the budget increase, its possible that other costs will force the school department to ask for additional funding from the April or November town meeting. Principals Beth Leavitt (Barrows) and Sarah Marchant (Coolidge) illustrated some of those challenges at their schools. …