Special Education Funding

Andy Hall:

Pressure on schools has intensified because the state has paid a decreasing share of special education costs. This year, the state is reimbursing schools 29 percent of the $1.16 billion cost. In 1993, the state paid 45 percent of the $585.9 million cost of special education.
Educators say they have been forced to cut so deeply into overall school budgets that in many cases, the educations of regular and special education students are jeopardized.
Terry Milfred, superintendent of the Weston district, 75 miles northwest of Madison, said administrators had to eliminate a school counseling position, slice the music program in half, eliminate cooking and sewing portions of home economics classes, outsource drivers’ education to a private company and reduce library staffing to balance the budget in recent years.
“Those things aren’t required by law, and consequently that’s where the services tend to be reduced to the point that we feel we can,” said Milfred, who sympathizes with the Legislature’s desire to hold down taxes but hopes for reforms.
Meanwhile, he said, the bill for one of the district’s special education students is $30,000, and another is transported 160 miles a day to receive specialized services.