Monday, January 8, 2018

Fix our Broken Special Education Finance System Part 2

In my last post, I began a discussion on Minnesota's special education deficit, the difference between school district mandatory expenditures for special education services and the total of state and federal reimbursement for those services.   I pointed out that this deficit is increasing at a rate faster than inflation, and that it requires school districts to take money out of the general fund appropriations for all students and transfer those funds to cover the deficit.  We generally measure the impact of the deficit on each district by looking at amount of the cross subsidy per student, that is the number of dollars subtracted from each student's general education dollars to cover the deficit.

For example, the special education cross subsidy for the Minneapolis school district is $1397 per student taken from each of 38,248 students.   Minneapolis's per student cross subsidy, as the chart below shows, is $330 per student more than that of St. Cloud, which in turn has a cross subsidy of $1,067 per student.  St. Cloud's cross subsidy is $565 per student greater than the cross subsidy experienced by the Little Falls School District.   Table 1 below lists the cross subsidies for the 12 school districts with the largest cross subsidies.   Table 2 below shows the cross subsidies for districts with much lower special education deficits.
Table 1
Districts with the Highest Cross Subsidies

These selected other districts have cross subsidies significantly lower than the top 10.

Table 2
Districts with lower Cross Subsidies

    What is fair about this system, that the students in Albert Lea should have more than $1000 taken out of the funds for their education, while the students at Rocori have only $500 taken from their education?  Why indeed should our system of school finance be financed this way, at all.    What is the sense behind funding special education by taking differing amounts out of the funding for students, with no rhyme or reason how much.