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*Key Facts
from 2013 OLA Special Education Report
*Breakdown of special education revenue:
  • 56% state aid
  • 11% federal aid
  • 33% school district

*Of 45 Minnesota statutes studied, that specifically govern special education, 19 contain at least one provision that exceeds federal requirements.  


*Nearly 75% of the 57 Minnesota rules analyzed, contained provisions that exceed federal requirements.


*Between FY 2000-2011, the school districts cross-subsidy increased 40% in 2011 dollars adjusted for inflation.  


*MDE reported 84.3 FTE, (21% of all staff) work at the department on special education.


*In FY11, nearly 19,000, or 17%, of all K-12 special education students attended school outside their resident district.

MDE Current Special Education Enrollment and Spending Trends Key Facts (birth-21)

*Special education enrollment as a percent of total enrollment, has grown from 13.4% in FY 2003 to 15.8% in FY 2018. 


*20% of special education students enroll outside their resident district:  

  • 57% in an other district
  • 27% charter schools
  • 16% cooperative
*Staffing of special education has changed. From FY07 to FY17, special education teachers dropped from 44% to 41% and paraprofessionals increased from 23% to 27%.

Summer Update
Special Education - July 26, 2018

Senate Education Policy Committee Picks Up Where Legislature Left Off 
The last Office of Legislative Auditor (OLA) Report on special education was released in 2013. Sen. Eric Pratt, chair of the Senate Education Policy Committee, held a two-hour meeting Tuesday to review that report and receive an update on current special education enrollment and spending trends from Minnesota Department of Education (MDE). Though the report is five years old and some of the content has changed, it is an important baseline for the topic. The committee hopes to determine the next steps needed to get a grasp on the special education cross-subsidy that is causing a major budgetary concerns in our school districts.
Looking at Minnesota's special education costs, the adjusted net cross-subsidy was $455 million in 2011, and nearly $680 million in 2016. The average cost per special education student in FY 2003 was $9,200 and in FY 2015 it jumped to $13,733 per student.
The current cross-subsidy per student varies from $105 to more than $1,000 per student, averaging $631 per student. No matter how one looks at it, special education costs continue to increase.  
As an example of what is driving some of the costs, both the OLA and MDE cited autism spectrum disorders as the highest growth area of special education. During the time span of the OLA report, autism spectrum disorders rose a staggering 555% from FY 2000-2011. In its update, MDE shared that autism spectrum disorders is up 13.6 percent from FY 2011-2012.      
The OLA made several recommendations in its 2013 evaluation:
  • Reduce school districts' substantial reliance on general education funding to pay special education expenses.
  • Consider modifying laws that require school districts to pay special education costs of students who choose to enroll outside their resident districts.
  • Legislature should direct MDE to initiate independent analyses of economic and educational impacts of potential changes to state regulations.
  • MDE should update its administrative rules regarding special education for consistency with Minnesota statutes.
  • MDE should continue to streamline paperwork required in special education and share best practices from districts. 
  • MDE should evaluate its monitoring process to identify ways to improve special education teachers understanding of compliance requirements. 
In response to the OLA in 2013, MDE agreed with all the recommendations. The committee plans on meeting several times before the 2019 legislative session begins to continue building an understanding of areas the policymakers can find common ground to affect meaningful change. Topics of focus will include the alignment of federal law and state rule, and the current funding flow and the impact of 2012 funding formula changes that were implemented in 2016.   
Sen. Pratt is interested in ideas and input from school board members on what policy changes could help control special education costs. Please contact us with suggestions or if you might be interested in sharing an experience with the committee through testimony.  
The next meeting is scheduled for August 21.  

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