General McLane testifies at Special Education Funding Commission hearing

Category:  News
Friday, October 11th, 2019 at 11:16 AM
General McLane testifies at Special Education Funding Commission hearing by General McLane School District
General McLane School District Superintendent Richard Scaletta and Board President Carrie Crow shared information with the Special Education Funding Commission on Oct. 1. | Contributed Photo

General McLane School District’s superintendent and board president presented joint testimony to the Special Education Funding Commission on Oct. 1, providing the state with the district’s perspective on the state’s special education funding formula.

The Special Education Funding Commission is co-chaired by Pennsylvania State Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Pat Browne (R-Lehigh), House Education Committee Chairman Curtis Sonney (R-Erie) and Education Secretary Pedro Rivera. The commission is tasked with reviewing and updating the state’s special education funding formula under a 2013 law passed by the state legislature.

General McLane School District Superintendent Richard Scaletta and School Board President Carrie Crow shared the following information:

• Their district spends approximately $3 million more in special education costs than the subsidy provided by the state.

• For example, General McLane saw an increase in spending for special education of $425,408 during 2018-19. The basic eduction formula state subsidy for 2018-19 was $107,000.

• Since the 2008-09 school year, General McLane’s number of students with special needs has increased by 19%, with students with autism doubling in population, and the percentage of students with emotional disturbances increasing by 28%.

The Special Education Funding Commission held its second public hearing at the Northwest Tri-County Unit #5.

Act 16 of 2019, which became law in June, directed the commission to review and update the state’s special education funding formula under a 2013 law passed by the legislature. The commission will issue a report to the General Assembly by the end of November making recommendations on how the state can distribute special education funding more fairly and effectively.

Here are some other facts regarding public education and special education costs:

• Public schools spent more than $4.7 billion to provide mandatory special education and early intervention programs and services to children and students with disabilities in 2017-18. That’s 73% more than 10 years prior.

• In 2007-08, state and federal special education funding was 41% of what public schools reported spending on special education. By 2017-18, however, that percentage had shrunk to 28.5%.

• Between 2007-08 and 2017-18:
— State special education funding increased 11.5%.
— Federal special education funding increased 71.8%.=
— Local share of special education funding increased 109.4%.
— Special education expenses increased 72.8%.

According to research, more kids than ever before need special education programs and services. In the 2007-08 school year, 271,000, or 15% of students, were identified for special education. By the 2017-18 school year, 291,000, or 16.9% of students, were identified for special education. This is while overall public school enrollments were down more than 80,000 students, or 4.5%.

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