The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, May 17, 2002


Cost of special ed still rising

At their May 7 meeting, the Carlisle School Committee reviewed trends in education spending over the past ten years in Massachusetts. "Special education costs, influenced by medical and social factors, will continue to rise," said Superintendent Davida Fox-Melanson. "We hear this from every town, from every superintendent. The numbers are staggering."

The Massachusetts Department of Education (DOE) end-of-the-year report states that regular education dollars were $1,980 million in FY91 and rose 65.8% in the intervening 10 years to $3,232 million in FY01. Special education spending for the same period rose 113.3% from $672 million to $1,367 million. The report also documents that DOE health services spending increased 146.4% over the past 10 years to $36 million and bilingual education demand increased 82.5% to $64 million.

Special education costs now consume a significantly higher percentage of most school district's budgets. As a percentage of the total DOE budget, special education expenditures have increased to 20.2%, up from 17.3%. The highest increase, 84.2 %, was for special education for children in their preschool years. Regular education has borne the brunt; spending declined from 5l.0 % in FY90, to 47.9% of total expenditures in FY01.

Increases in the number of children and the severity of children's disabilities served by special education (SPED) programs indicate these trends will continue. Causes of the escalation include advances in medical technology that rescue ever younger premature infants (who have a high incidence of disabilities), deinstitutionalization of special needs children, a higher percentage of children living in poverty, and an increase in families experiencing social and economic stress. While special education is federally mandated, there is lack of adequate funding on a state and federal level.

2002 The Carlisle Mosquito