CLEARFIELD – Special education costs have risen drastically for the Clearfield Area School District over the past five years.
However, state funding hasn’t risen at anywhere near the same rate; and this is stretching the district’s budget and costing taxpayers.
During Monday night’s regular school board meeting, board member Tim Morgan spoke about the rising special education costs.
In response, he said the district has created a “Stepping Stones,” or extended services, classroom at the Clearfield Area Elementary School.
This classroom is designed for K-2 students who aren’t as successful in general population due to lacking social or behavioral skills.
Morgan said the board took this step to help students early on before more costly intensive intervention services become necessary.
Prior to his comments, it also unanimously approved an agreement with Pyramid Healthcare for emotional, autism and behavioral support services.
Morgan said Business Administrator Sam Maney had provided him with a special education funding breakdown for the past five years.
While Clearfield’s state funding rises annually by about $40,000, he said the district’s costs rise by about $400,000 annually.
“So, when we have to raise taxes, this is one of the reasons why,” Morgan said. “This is one line item in our budget that we can’t support even with extra taxes …”
He said over the past five years, $19.7 million in special education program costs have fallen upon the district and its taxpayers.
Morgan said these costs have come out of “local people’s pockets,” and the district has taken some steps to try to relieve some of this burden.
“I think anytime we get people and programs to try to help cut down on our costs, it’s a real feather in our cap,” he said.
On the contrary, Morgan said it bothered him to hear state officials vow their support for special education because it doesn’t sync with the tune of the rising costs.