Last week CapeCodToday.com received a statement from Elysse Magnotto, Chief of Staff to Cape & Islands Senator Dan Wolf, answering several of our questions about special education funding.
One of the assertions made in that statement was that hometown school districts bear the full cost of educating special education students who attend charter schools.
Cape Cod Lighthouse Charter School corrects the record
That assertion was quickly de-bunked by Cape Cod Lighthouse Charter School Executive Director Paul Niles, who sent us the following statement which he had sent today to the State Senator's office:
I recently noticed a significant error concerning charter/district school financing in a section of an article produced by your office for Cape Cod Today. In a section of the article that the author cites as quoting verbatim from material you supplied, the article states: "And, for edification, if there is a DY special needs student that goes to a charter school, it is DY that pays the special ed costs, not the charter school. If there is a charter school student with an IEP, it is DY that pays the costs of the IEP, not the charter school."
In fact, this is not true.
The charter school pays the FULL COST of implementing the provisions of a student's IEP, except in the case of two very rare circumstances:
1. As described in the article, if a student's special education costs exceed a certain ceiling, the "circuit breaker" is triggered, and the charter school or district receives some reimbursement from the state. If this student is at a charter school, the state makes the compensation, not the district.
2. If a process involving both district and charter staff determines that a charter school student needs an outside placement, financial responsibility for that placement reverts to the home district. This has happened twice in our 19 year history.
At CCLCS, we are proud of the excellent work that our special and mainstream educators do in service of our students with special needs. Even though we are a small school, we have a full-time special education teacher at each grade level, a full-time school psychologist, and in-house occupational and speech and language therapists. We also fill out our staffing with as many special education aides as the IEPs in a given year may dictate.
Even though it costs us more to service students on IEPs than the per pupil allocation that we receive from the sending districts, we are happy and proud to do so.
When reached by CapeCodToday.com, Elysse Magnotto acknowledged the error. Special education funding remains a significant challenge for all Cape area school districts, most especially our two charter schools.