The Ansonia Board of Education held a public forum Jan. 17 at the high school to explain how special education costs are driving up expenses in the school district.
Click play to listen to the forum in its entirety. The audio is published thanks to the school district’s recording secretary.
Modern special education funding grew from the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, enacted in 1975. It later became the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
The U.S. has a shameful history when it came to educating kids with special needs. Kids with severe disabilities were often housed in mental institutions, with no access to schools. The conditions in the facilities were often horrible.
In 1970, more than 1 million students with special needs could not go to public schools. An additional 3.5 million did not receive “appropriate services,” according to a year 2000 report from the National Council on Disability.
The federal government was to fund 40 percent of special education costs.
But that’s never happened, local leaders often point out — and the costs keep rising.
In attendance at the Jan. 17 forum were many school district administrators and employees, parents, as well as Aldermen and other officials, including state Sen. George Logan and state Rep. Linda Gentile.
It began with remarks by Assistant Superintendent Michael Wilson and Director of Special Services Kathie Gabrielson, followed by a presentation from Michelle Laubin, an attorney who works for the city’s law firm, about special education costs.
Every year school officials blame rising special education costs as one of the many reasons overall education costs go up. And they say that special education costs are rising as a percentage of the overall school budget, as well.
Last month’s meeting included a discussion of how the city and school district account for various state and federal grants, such as the state’s “excess cost reimbursement,” which is meant to help defray the costs of special education.
The meeting also included a presentation from Frank Connolly, its interim business administrator, on special education costs.