Once we received the data, however, it became clear that the districts were not reporting these disability category expenditures lines consistently. As Table V-2 in the data analysis section shows, many districts reported no expenditures at all into the categories and when expenditures were reported the per pupil amounts were inconsistent and difficult to interpret…Certain student-level disability information was not possible to obtain.Data collection was also hindered by the lack of consistency among districts in reporting data to the State. Another obstacle was districts’ reluctance to participate in interviews. The report notes,
Prior to presenting the results of the interviews, it is important to note the climate that they were conducted in. The interviewees were identified both by the DOE and through APA data analysis. Regardless of how participant districts were identified, it proved to be difficult to get districts to participate in the interviews. Underlying this problem seemed to be the perceived relationship between the districts and the state. Though many districts simply did not return calls and emails requesting interviews, those that did often mentioned that the consistent budget cuts have created some animosity about participating in state run studies. They also mentioned that they found it difficult to find the time to participate in outside studies. At least one district mentioned participation in a court case against the state as reason not to participate. Ultimately, we were able to get a third of all districts we contacted to participate.When APA was able to interview districts, they found that staff members felt that a census-based model was unfair. For example, one district is located near a military base and staff members told APA that the military “sends families with high needs children to that base and thus the district gets a large number of high needs students.” Also, some districts get a reputation for great special ed services (particularly in wealthy districts) so “families hear about and will specifically pick the district to move into.”
(1) New Jersey might need to consider funding special education based on the actual enrollment of special education students in districts andAnd, finally,
(2) the state might need to consider some differentiation of funding for higher cost students before the extraordinary aid threshold is reached.
If it is found that the census system creates these higher burdens then adjustments need to be made to the special education funding system to addresses the inequities created by the census based funding. This might include differentiating the current census based system by type of district or eliminating the current system and funding districts based on actual special education students with regard to the higher costs associated with certain students.
Labels: DOE, special education