Red Wing, MN: 'Special ed. funding' is major issue for school districts

Feb 17, 2018, Red Wing (MN) Post Bulletin: Lawmakers head back to work after listening to local officials Sen. Mike Goggin, whose District 21 covers parts of Dodge, Winona, Wabasha and Goodhue counties, said he's heard from local governments and school boards, and he's listening to the issues that are common among the groups. One that came up while listening to the Red Wing Public Schools board was the cap on special education funding and the formula that brings state aid to local districts. "Special education funding, I'm hearing that from other school districts in my district," Goggin said. "It's a difficult situation with our schools and with the mandates that are coming down." Red Wing Superintendent Karsten Anderson said when Goggin came to visit, it was the number one issue for the district to impress upon the senator. Three years ago, the state changed how it calculates revenue for special education services, putting a cap on funding based on what Anderson calls a "complicated formula" that, considering Red Wing's declining enrollment, does not pay as much as the old formula for the same level of service. For Red Wing, he said, the difference was hundreds of thousands of dollars, and led to the deep cuts the district made a couple of years ago. In Red Wing, 18 percent of the district's students are classified as special needs, higher than the state average. "We have kids who have special needs, and we want to serve them," Anderson said. "We're obligated to serve them. I just think the state and federal governments should pay their fair share toward providing that service."