Tomko on Monday afternoon said increased enrollment, but particularly among special needs students, is a leading cause of the district’s financial instability. The same factor is once again coming into play this school year, he said.
Since school began in September, the district has enrolled eight students whose needs demand unique care in facilities outside the district, Tomko said.
Anticipated costs associated with educating these additional special needs students, among others the district by law cannot turn away, will likely exceed by $200,000 the $6 million set aside for special education in 2012-13, Tomko estimated. The total budget for this year is $36 million.(Comm. Cerf is not so quick to put this deficit completely on the backs of special ed kids, referring to “material weaknesses” in district financial controls.)
The district’s commitment is to continue to provide unwavering academic success within a sound fiscal strategy. By reviewing the financial data provided in the school report card, it is evident that Elmwood Park’s per pupil expenditure continues to be far less than what the state has identified as “adequate.” Be that as it may, we remain competitive with districts throughout the state and within the same district factor grouping.The Record editorial offers this solution:
The best approach going forward would be for special education costs to be borne by the state. We need to explore creating a dedicated fund to do that. No matter where special education children are living at the moment, their educational needs are an issue for a government entity with greater resources than a local school district.Interesting idea, and consistent with the philosophy behind the School Funding Reform Act. (The money follows the child, regardless of place of residence.) But a bit simplistic and, anyway, taxes are taxes, right? A more granular approach would examine ways to scale up high-quality special education programs, private or public (traditional or charter), perhaps on a county-wide basis, well beyond what we do with Special Services school districts or shared services. Covering the high costs of special education – mandated through state and federal law – is just a symptom of New Jersey’s inefficient and unwieldy school infrastructure. This is a big picture problem, not a circumscribed one.
Labels: school funding, special education