Friday, February 2, 2001
Catch-22 in new SPED funding formula
A new special education (SPED) funding formula devised by the state Department of Education (DOE) is scheduled to go into effect July 1, 2002, director of student support services, Linda Stapp, told the Carlisle School Committee at their January 23 meeting. Under the plan the state would provide more reimbursement for the most expensive SPED students who are served at the Carlisle school or in the C.A.S.E. (Concord Area Special Education) collaborative. The catch is that the state and federal governments have never appropriated the amount of money they would need to support the proposed programs, Stapp said. "I can't imagine we would get the full funding," she added.
Beyond that there is the "Catch-22", as one school committee member put it, in the provision of the formula that says that the school committee's budget recommendation shall exclude any costs eligible for reimbursement. That means that if the state did not fully fund the reimbursement, the money would not be in the school's budget either.
The new formula also presents a record-keeping nightmare. According to Stapp it requires tracking the time that each SPED student is being taught by a SPED teacher versus a regular education teacher. In the inclusive classrooms in Carlisle where SPED teachers and students work together with regular education students and teachers it will be very difficult to separate, Stapp said.
If fully funded, the proposed formula would help to reimburse some expenses that Carlisle is now paying and would be overall positive for the town. If the promised funds did not materialize, it would be a problem. Changes could still be made to the new formula, as it will not become effective until July 2002.
Another new state plan would create a state risk pool to allow school districts to share the risks of extraordinary and unanticipated SPED costs. Stapp said she does not want to join this now because there are too many unknowns about how it would work. She explained that the state DOE would set the premiums, but has not yet announced what they will be. She said she would continue to gather information, as it becomes available. She did not yet know whether the town could join the pool in a later year after seeing how it was working for others.
© 2001 The Carlisle Mosquito