The Madison School District did not respond to requests for information regarding the number of students on individual education plans (IEPs) during the 2021-22 school year. Nor did officials respond to a request for information regarding the total or per-pupil cost to serve special-education students in the last school year.
If special-education reimbursement had increased to 50% in the most recent biennium, it would have added $16.1 million to the Madison School District’s budget, Heinritz said. That could have allowed the district to hire more special-education staff and pay them more.
“You’re looking at more people, and you’d have much more support for our students, buildings, and it would contribute to teachers focusing on teaching,” Heinritz said.
Democrat Gov. Tony Evers proposed increasing special-education reimbursement to 50% in his draft 2021-23 biennial budget, but the proposal was scrapped by Republicans, although they did bump reimbursement by 2 percentage points to its current rate of roughly 30%.
The shortfall has made recruiting, retaining and training special-education staff difficult, Siravo said.
“I know they want to do better, but they’re still working with a system that’s funded only at a certain degree,” she said of the Madison School District.
Special education funding along with Madison’s spending and program practices have been a topic of discussion for many years. The taxpayer supported school district served 4,314 special education students in 2007.