ROCHESTER, Minn. – The Stewartville School Board unanimously approved two resolutions urging state and federal governments to fully fund special education services, something the government promised they would do.
“We’re asking the state and federal government to meet the obligations they set forth…to step up to the plate,” Belinda Selfors, Superintendent of Stewartville School District said.
The obligations she’s talking about are part of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) enacted in 1975. Selfors said the government is not providing the amount of funding for special education it said it would in IDEA, and the burden falls on the district.
For the 2015-2016 school year Stewartville’s special education expenses totaled over $3 million, and the district paid about $1.2 million of these expenses.
“So we receive funding for about $2 million of our costs, however that $1.2 million comes out of our general fund which then impacts other programs,” Selfors said. “If we want to make sure we provide programs for all students, we have to ask more from our taxpayers.”
And Stewartville is not alone. Other area school districts like Kasson-Mantorville internally spend over one million dollars to pay for their total special education expenses of $2.1 million.
“It’s a statewide issue, we are one of many school districts,” Selfors said. “We’re educators, we want to help kids be successful no matter what their backgrounds are and what their needs are. “
Selfors said special education services help students be successful and can include everything from communication devices, extra staffing, and special transportation.
She said they’re fighting for kids that cannot fight for themselves.
“Things happen outside of the school setting that are established by legislators or elected officials that affect the work me we do yet the ones without the voice end up getting or not getting the services they need,” she said.
The resolutions were sent to state and federal legislators. They also urged representatives to support bill HF2846, which in part creates a workforce to address Special education funding issues.
Selfors said she’s received feedback from legislators and will continue to advocate.
“It’s really just communicating what the needs are and hoping legislators find a way to meet those needs,” she said.