We picked up a Minneapolis Star Tribune on our trip home from my mother-in-law's funeral over the weekend. There was a feature article regarding Special Education services "draining" school budgets because Minnesota provides services for students that do not meet the federal requirements for reimbursement. The percent of kids getting services in Minnesota averages 18%. They noted that the average expenditure for special education in Minnesota is $22,000, compared to $8,000 for regular ed students. This leads to even more money being transferred to the special ed fund from the general ed fund. Even in Wisconsin, where they scrutinize every application for services and deny those that do not meet the federal guidelines, money has to be budgeted for this transfer. So I can imagine that this is quite a challenge for some Minnesota districts.
Part of the article noted that using RtI (Response to Intervention, a preemptive strike to identify and provide support for kids showing developmental delay and/or in need of enrichment), as has become routine in Wisconsin, has reduced the need for special education in a district that has been piloting RtI. Their grant money ran out. Even with the proof that RtI significantly reduced the need for special ed in that district, they can't get funding for RtI. The statement that was particularly telling to me was, "The government requires all these programs but fails to fully fund them." This is the mantra of unfunded mandates you hear all over the education spectrum. RtI can throw a lifeline to a kid who isn't making the connections or who is bored to tears. It's nice to know that Wisconsin is on the right track with this program. It would be nice to see the data for how/if RtI has changed ECSD special education roles as well.