Strangling Wisconsin Education With Underfunded Special Ed

Paul Soglin:

I met with some special education teachers on Tuesday and wish to share my observations about the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD). These are my observations and conclusions, not theirs.

  • For the 1996-97 school year the State of Wisconsin paid 40.223% of the cost of special education. For 2006-2007 the state paid  28%. (Here is a MMSD memo on the subject from 2005)
  • The MMSD cannot lower the expenditures for special education and so the lost state revenues must be made up by cuts in general education.
  • The lost funding amounts to about $8 million dollars this year.
  • In the 2001-2002 school year the MMSD enrolled 197 children with a Primary Disability of Autism. That number rose to 303 for this school year. Twenty five years ago that number was less than five. If one out of every 166 children are autistic, there should be 150 autistic children in the MMSD.
  • A 2003 district study showed that 93 of the autistic children enrolled that year moved into the district from not just Wisconsin and the United States, but all over the world. That number does not include the children of families who moved to Madison prior to their child’s fifth birthday.

My conclusions: Special eduction is just one of several factors driving the cost of educating our children. More significant is the cost of educating so many children enrolled in the MMSD who’s families are below the poverty line.

There is no question that the original outstanding commitment to special education of the MMSD in the 1980’s combined with the high level of services (Waisman Center, etc) attracted a significant number of families to the MMSD.

More on state K-12 finance from Paul here:

he Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) struggles to make budget cuts. Some taxpayers are assuming that if they, as students, could get a quality education twenty or forty years ago, then, with a little fine tuning, it can be today’s students.
The world and Wisconsin education has changed. Here are some of the differences from thirty years ago: