Wareham School Committee, Selectmen seek stability for special education costs

By Matthew Bernat | Sep 06, 2017

Voters at October’s Town Meeting will be asked to approve a $200,000 buffer against one of the Wareham Public Schools budget’s most volatile line items – special education.

On Wednesday, School Committee members unanimously approved sending a request before Town Meeting that, if approved, would create a Special Education Stabilization Fund.

The measure, which has the blessing of Selectmen and Wareham’s town administrator, would transfer $200,000 from the town’s free cash account into the new fund.

Wareham Public Schools Business Manager Michael MacMillan explained that special education spending may increase dramatically and unexpectedly year-to-year. That happens either through the district gaining students with special needs who need to be accommodated or when the needs of current students change.

MacMillan said in years past, officials have relied on “circuit breaker” funds when unanticipated special education costs arise. The circuit breaker is the state’s special education reimbursement program, which provides additional state funding to districts for high-cost special education students.

MacMillan said the stabilization fund would allow officials to mostly stop using circuit breaker funds for those unanticipated costs, allowing for better financial planning.

He noted that using stabilization funds would require the approval of both the School Committee and Selectmen.

MacMillan said while the fund would be a step in the right direction, it's possible that even one student needing special education accommodations may require the full amount in one year.

“One student’s tuition could take up a significant portion of this,” MacMillan told committee members. “I would like to see the amount maybe doubled. That would give me reassurance we had a sufficient reserve.”

Comments (1)
Posted by: Spherebreaker | Sep 07, 2017 08:52

$200,000      “One student’s tuition could take up a significant portion of this,” MacMillan told committee members. This is not a public education. No wonder American students are behind the rest of the world.

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