The increasing cost of special education in Minnesota is contributing to a dispute over emergency funding for schools during the last full week of the legislative session.
Gov. Mark Dayton is seeking emergency school funding to help districts that are facing budget shortfalls. Districts spent $2.2 billion on special education alone last year, up 26 percent in a decade, Minnesota Public Radio reported.
More than 141,000 students receive services for physical impairments, learning disabilities, behavioral issues and other reasons. About 16 percent of Minnesota students received such services last year, an increase of 1.3 percentage points in a decade.
Schools say the state mandates certain costs without covering them. For example, districts are billed for special education students who live in the area even if they attend a charter school or go to another school district.
"We want to ensure that students get the level of service they need," said Minneapolis district lobbyist Josh Downham. "However, when we have to subsidize a portion of the services that are provided at the charter school, it makes it more difficult for us to provide that same level of service at the school district."
The city's bill from charter schools and other districts was nearly $23 million last year, more than double the cost in 2013, Downham said.
Officials at Lionsgate Academy in Minnetonka have said they need those funds to stay open because they can't levy taxes like school districts can.
Some districts have begun sharing resources and services in an attempt to reduce costs. Minneapolis school officials have also moved some teacher training online to reduce expenses.