Minnesota schools facing ‘crisis level’ in special education funding
Soaring special education costs are squeezing the budgets of Minnesota schools — and quickly becoming school districts’ top priority for the new legislative session.
While public schools are required to provide special education services, federal and state governments cover only a portion of the cost. That means Minnesota districts must dig in their budgets, pull out money they would otherwise spend paying teachers or remodeling aging buildings, and collectively fill in a gap that this year is expected to balloon to $724 million.
For many districts, that exercise has become increasingly painful, resulting in teacher layoffs, program cuts and swelling class sizes. School administrators are quick to note that they cannot — and would not — deny special education students their right to an education that meets their needs, no matter the cost. But they say the mandate’s growing financial burden is threatening their ability to provide the same for all students.