Dayton proposes plan to close special education funding gap

Published 9:00 pm Sunday, April 15, 2018

By Solvejg Wastvedt, Minnesota Public Radio News

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Gov. Mark Dayton wants lawmakers to use part of Minnesota’s budget surplus to increase school district special education funding.

Dayton is proposing $19 million more next year and $22 million more the following year.

At an event in St. Cloud announcing the proposal, state Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius said school districts compensate for inadequate special education money by taking funds from other programs.

“Minnesota has a long tradition of leading in special education services,” Cassellius said. “But our schools are facing immense difficulty continuing to provide for all their students because of the rising cost of special education.”

State officials said the gap between school districts’ special education costs and the state and federal funding they receive is projected to hit $817 million statewide by 2021.

St. Cloud Area School District board member Bruce Hentges said his district would use the funds Dayton is proposing to expand programs for all students. Hentges said the St. Cloud school district’s special education funding gap is $14.5 million.

“We need the extra funding to do things like expanded summer school, acceleration programs for underprivileged students,” Hentges said. “We would expand programs to better meet the needs of our gifted and talented students. We could provide services for students with dyslexia.”