New bill to close the special education funding gap for school districts in MN – ABC 6 News
(ABC 6 News) – This week lawmakers are addressing the funding gap for special education in schools in Minnesota. There’s a new bill that aims to fill that gap by having the state pay for special education programs that will cost about $3 billion over the next four years.
School districts currently pay millions for these special education programs, but at a time when most schools are struggling to make ends meet, some lawmakers and school officials say it’s time the state did its duty to the next generation Fulfills.
Marian Aanerud has two sons in the special education programs at Rochester Public Schools.
“If they didn’t have that kind of support in school, if it was underfunded or understaffed, they wouldn’t be getting the education they’re getting now,” explained Aanerud. “Every family should have what we have. It was borderline life saving to have that kind of support.”
Her son Johannes attends Dakota Middle School and participates in one of these programs.
“It’s really nice to be there and to have other kids like me and to have teachers who understand,” he said.
But now lawmakers are deciding who should pay for these programs.
Currently, the state government pays 6.4% of the cost of each school district’s special education program.
The remaining approximately 94% is the responsibility of the school district, which is referred to as cross-subsidy.
“If we don’t fund the cross-subsidy, we’re basically shifting that cost to the district, and if we shift the cost to the district, we’re shifting it to property taxes,” said bill co-author Rep. Kim Hicks (DFL-Rochester ).
In Southeast Minnesota, RPS has a cross-subsidy of about $15 million.
The district will pay $5.8 million for the Austin Public Schools.
“The level of support that the state provides is much less than the actual cost of providing students with the services they need and need,” added Koni Grimsrud, director of student services at RPS.
Districts across the state then use common funds to cover the difference. With only so much money available, school officials find themselves in a difficult position.
“It leads to this unintentional juxtaposition of a Gen-Ed student with a special education teacher,” explained Andrew Beenken-Adams, executive director of finance and operations at APS.
The HF18 bill, sponsored by Rep. Dan Wolgamott (DFL-St. Cloud), would require the state to cover 100% of special education programs. The argument against the bill comes from lawmakers saying the federal government should adjust the bill. But others say this must never happen and the schools need the money now.
Money to fund programs like Marian’s sons use every day.
“I really appreciate the fact that there was that support and I got the support I needed and I can’t imagine what it would be like if I didn’t have it,” she added.
Rochester Public School Board Chair Cathy Nathan testified in St. Paul in support of the bill.
After a committee hearing this week, the bill is likely to be included in a larger education package that would then go to the House of Representatives.