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The Challenge of Saving Money in Special Ed

A school district in northeastern Massachusetts plans to save money on special education costs—even if it doesn't hire a private company to help it do so.

I recently wrote about some of the work that a private company, Futures Education, is doing to help school districts trim special education spending. In many districts, the portion of the budget devoted to students with disabilities has grown significantly over the years and is perceived as being untouchable. I can understand how even bringing up the subject of saving money on special ed expenses might terrify parents.

One district, Amesbury, Mass., has discussed hiring Futures to take over the work of special education paraprofessionals. The move could save Amesbury, which has about 2,400 students, about $130,000. (If you listen to the audio report at the link above, you'll hear just how angry some Amesbury residents really were about the idea of outsourcing paras.) The switch could lead to about 60 employees losing their jobs.

Districts and states have long struggled to save money in special education, although some don't think it's possible. I wrote about one recent report on the topic—which also discussed broader changes to teaching students with disabilities.

Yet another recent piece also explores the past and future of special education, including its finances.

This week in Amesbury, the union representing the paraprofessionals proposed a solution that could preserve district jobs. The union chief didn't disclose the details, but it was a strong enough offer to keep the outsourcing idea off the table for a couple more weeks.

Stay tuned.

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