Stillwater, MN: 'Students on the autism spectrum have gone up by 140 kids'

June 9, 2017, Stillwater (MN) Gazette: Report: Special ed needs are increasing in District 834 The special education needs of students are increasing at Stillwater area schools and the rest of the state. However, the funding from the state and federal government is not keeping up with the increased costs, according to a study of the Stillwater Area Public Schools special education program. … Only one category of special education needs in the district has decreased in the last 10 years, she said: The number of kids with emotional-behavior disorders has dropped slightly. In the other three major classifications of special education, numbers have gone up, Troolin said, with an increase in the number of students with developmental delays; students with autism and health disability; and students with attention disorders, hyperactivity disorder and fetal alcohol syndrome. “In the last 10 years, the number of students on the autism spectrum have gone up by 140 kids,” Troolin said. “But this is not out of line with state and national trends with ASD.” “Was the definition of those on the autism spectrum in 2006 the same as what they are using in 2017?” asked board member Tom Lehmann. … “No, it has broadened and it has added the whole spectrum,” Troolin said. “It used to be a narrower definition and now it is broader, but … the growth has slowed even though the numbers look like they are skyrocketing. It’s a very interesting field and very challenging to staff.” The report found that the special education costs for the Stillwater Area School District have increased from about $12.2 million in 2011-12 to $13.8 million in 2015-16, an increase of 11 percent. However, the percentage of the general fund that goes toward the cross-subsidy for special education has increased from 7.46 percent in 2011-12 to 12.67 percent in 2015-16. “As a person in special education, I am always concerned about general education,” Holt said. “Anytime you take a dollar from the general fund for special education, you are have a dollar less for the kids in school.”