The Special Education Caseload Task Force met on Tuesday, November 19. The agenda meeting accomplished two goals. First, the Task Force members were able to hear from Jody Hauer from the Office of the Legislative Auditor (OLA). The Office of the Legislative Auditor completed an Evaluation Report of Special Education in 2013. In fact, the report was so well done, we have asked Jody to present her findings to the MSBA Delegate Assembly in December. The Office of the Legislative Auditor’s mission is to determine the degree to which state agencies and programs are accomplishing their goals and objectives and utilizing resources efficiently. If you are interested in the full report, visit www.auditor.leg.state.mn.us.
Some of the Key Findings:
- The Legislature should consider options to reduce school district reliance on general education funding to pay special education expenses. At the same time, MDE should work with school districts to identify feasible cost controls in special education.
- The Legislature should direct MDE to initiate an independent analysis of the economic and educational impacts of potential changes to state regulations.
- The Legislature should consider modifying laws that require resident school districts to pay special education costs of students who choose to enroll outside of the districts where they reside.
- MDE should evaluate its monitoring process to identify ways to improve special education teachers’ understanding of compliance requirements.
- MDE should continue efforts to streamline paperwork required in special education and identify effective practices from districts to encourage additional efficiencies.
- MDE should update it special education rules for consistency with Minnesota statutes.
The second part of the task force was focused on the work of the two subcommittees – Rule/Statute Alignment and Caseloads. The Caseload subcommittee identified ten broad categories. Within each of the categories, each committee member is challenged with bringing forward recommendations for the entire group to consider.
Those categories include:
2. Caseload statute/rule modifications
3. Licensure and Teacher supply
4. Other time requirements
5. Professional Development
6. Increasing student contact time (special ed teachers)
7. Ways that general education teachers can be supportive
8. Resource needs
10. OLA committee recommendations to consider
The next meeting will review all of the recommendations to be included in the final report. The OLA Report identifies some fairly significant reform ideas for the legislature. The elephant in the room is the growing cross-subsidy. Additional special education mandates that could come in the form of caseload limits would absolutely increase costs for school districts and the overall cross-subsidy, while at the same time reducing local control as it relates to making personnel decisions. I would like to hear from your district on potential policy and financial issues districts would feel if a caseload limit was imposed by the state legislature. What would be your recommendations?
The next meeting is scheduled for 1 p.m. Tuesday, December 10. The final meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, January 14.