The Learning Curve is a weekly column that answers questions about schools using plain language. Have a question about how your local schools work? Write me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Thursday night, the Poway Unified school board will look at a report detailing how much the district has been spending from its general fund on special education and where it could save money.
In 2014-2015, Poway Unified’s general fund contribution to special education was 54 percent of total special education expenditures, according to the report. In 2015-2016, that number rose to 57 percent and was projected at 60 percent in 2016-17.
That includes teachers and other employee salaries who work with students with disabilities, services and resources for those students, transportation for students with disabilities and other expenditures to ensure districts are serving students with disabilities in accordance with federal and state laws that can range from due process costs or even tuition for schooling alternatives when a public school can’t meet their needs.
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Tell me if I've got this right. Funding is about $750 times the total number of students? Spread over 3.5% of students. So, $750/0.035 is about $21K plus the $10K spent on every student. I have no idea is this is adequate but I'd appreciate it if the figures were given plainly rather than incommensurate relative values. Not to pick on this article as this seems to be a trend in modern journalism.
Not to say why the number of students with disabilities has been increasing is telling half of the story.
I looked at the WestEd report regarding Special Education in SDUSD, and if I read it correctly (pages 40-41), it indicates that SDUSD spent $192 million in general education funding above and beyond the $102 million the federal/state/local governments provided for Special Education services. This means that general education funding provides 65% of the funding for Special Education services in SDUSD, much higher than Poway Unified's contribution.
According to page 45 of the report, 29.7% of SDUSD's budget is allocated to Special Education goals, which is significantly higher compared to other school districts. Dividing $295 million for approximately 14,800 special needs students gives an average of more than $19,000 annually in Special Education services per special needs student. There is no question that Special Education is an underfunded mandate, but why are the costs so much higher for SDUSD?
Are there any studies regarding the etiology of these disabilities, i.e. birth defects, or child abuse?