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These comments are responses to the statements listed below,
which were generated in regard to the
Jody Hauer Interview of
04-05-2013.
 

Review of special education reveals difficult cost-control issues

                                                                                                    OVERVIEW

As of 2011, nearly 112,000 students in Minnesota were receiving special education, 13.6 percent of all students in grades K-12, according to Jody Hauer, principal evaluator for the Office of the Legislative Auditor. Hauer, project manager for the Auditor's March 2013 evaluation of special education, points out that special education revenues in 2011 amounted to $1.8 billion. She discusses the four main lines of inquiry of the evaluation: funding; state and federal legal requirements for special education; legal compliance monitoring and enforcement; and characteristics of the students receiving special education. She reports that the per student costs for providing services to children in 13 different disability categories vary widely by category, from $2,583 to $47,252. Hauer also points out the rise in special education costs and the impact of that increase on local school districts. She also discusses major disincentives for school districts to implement cost-control measures for special education and recommends ways of adding cost-control incentives. 

For the complete interview summary see:  http://bit.ly/YqhuFV

Response Summary:  Readers have been asked to rate, on a scale of (0) most disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) most agreement, the following points discussed by Jody Hauer. Average response ratings shown below are simply the mean of all readers’ zero-to-ten responses to the ideas proposed and should not be considered an accurate reflection of a scientifically structured poll.

1. MN committed to equal opportunity. (7.7 average response) Minnesota's special education approach is evidence of the state's commitment to giving children with physical and mental disabilities education opportunities equivalent to those of their nondisabled peers.

2. Mandates hurt regular education. (8.9 average response) But the approach is flawed because unfunded mandates for special education require local school districts to dip into revenues that otherwise would finance regular school operations.

3. Expense scheme flawed. (8.3 average response) Requiring the school district where a special education student resides to be responsible for all of his/her education expenses, regardless of where the student actually attends school, leads to unchecked expenditures.

4. Spending floor ignores results. (8.0 average response) A federal requirement that school districts maintain their level of special education funding from year to year—regardless of outcomes—puts an unwise emphasis on spending over educational results.

5. More Pre-K now could reduce future costs. (6.0 average response) More investment now in early childhood education could reduce future special education expenses.
 

Response Distribution:

Strongly disagree

Moderately disagree

Neutral

Moderately agree

Strongly agree

Total Responses

1. MN committed to equal opportunity.

6%

0%

13%

50%

31%

16

2. Mandates hurt regular education.

0%

0%

6%

31%

63%

16

3. Expense scheme flawed.

0%

13%

0%

38%

50%

16

4. Spending floor ignores results.

0%

13%

19%

13%

56%

16

5. More Pre-K now could reduce future costs.

6%

13%

38%

19%

25%

16

Individual Responses:

Ray Ayotte  (7.5)  (7.5)  (10)  (10)  (5)

Chris Brazelton  (10)  (10)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (10)

5. More Pre-K now could reduce future costs. Many children with certain types of disability respond well to early intervention. This conversation is important and hopefully further research will be done to address the reason behind the growing numbers. Are children who were born here being diagnosed in higher numbers? Research regarding overuse of antibiotics and brain damage caused by out-of-whack gut bacteria balances leading to more incidence of Autism need to be studied.  Are parents moving their families with disabled children to Minnesota for better services?

R. C. Angevine  (7.5)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)

1. MN committed to equal opportunity. Considering that Minnesota seems to provide services over and above the federal requirements one should perhaps question whether all of the services offered are productive or provide desirable results.  I'm not making that judgment, just asking whether it should be made by knowledgeable persons.

2. Mandates hurt regular education. If we truly want to provide special education then we must also fund it.  The federal government in particular needs to step up in this matter.

3. Expense scheme flawed. The district paying the bill deserves a voice in the services that are provided.

4. Spending floor ignores results. As in many other matters, we need to find ways to make sure the funding is being spent productively.

Don Anderson  (7.5)  (10)  (7.5)  (5)  (7.5)

Sandra E. Peterson  (7.5)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)

1. MN committed to equal opportunity. Special Education students receive more consideration than regular education students as districts are having to take from General Education Funding for cross subsidy.

2. Mandates hurt regular education. About $9 million dollars for my district is used for cross subsidy.  Along with no inflationary increases in General Fund dollars, districts are taking from district programs to meet requirements mandated in special education.

Anonymous   (0)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (0)

Vici Oshiro  (10)  (10)  (7.5)  (10)  (10)

Bright Dornblaser   (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (5)

Al Quie   (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (5)

Tom Spitznagle   (5)  (5)  (7)  (9)  (4)

Wayne Jennings   (9)  (8)  (3)  (5)  (6)

I think part of the rise in numbers of special education students is [explained by] the way schools and classrooms operate. This is, conventional classrooms place an unnatural burden on students to sit still for long periods and hold expectations that all students will learn the same material at the same age, an unlikely outcome given the variability of children and their learning styles and interests. So, if kids don’t measure up they are considered to have deficits. The more recent movement in education [is] to study kids for their strengths rather [than] deficits; and, then to work with the strengths.

Carolyn Ring   (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (6)

The low percentage of students that reach their IEP goals indicates a problem in setting goals and expectations.  It is a problem for school districts in planning, as they do not know from year to year how many Special Education students they will have.

David Detert   (5)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (3)

Lyall Schwarzkopf   (7)  (9)  (9)  (3)  (5)

Kim Salisbury   (8)  (6)  (4)  (4)  (5)

Tom Swain   (9)  (7)  (8)  (5)  (5)

    

The Civic Caucus   is a non-partisan, tax-exempt educational organization.   The Core participants include persons of varying political persuasions,
reflecting years of leadership in politics and business. Click here  to see a short personal background of each.

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Tim McDonald,  John Mooty,  Jim Olson,  Wayne Popham  and Bob White


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