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'Study: State pads numbers to increase special ed funding

Nah, that's baloney,' says program's assistant commissioner

Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota is one of several states that pad special education numbers to get more funding with roughly 12,000 students receiving services who shouldn't, according to a report released Wednesday.

Minnesota has 114,000 special education students. The state's program was part of a nationwide review of special education programs by the Manhattan Institute of New York City.

The state Department of Children, Families, and Learning said the Minnesota findings are "baloney."

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According to the study, there are 400,000 more children in nationwide special education programs than there should be -- representing $2 billion a year in extra expenses.

Minnesota's extra 12,000 students represent more than $73 million in extra funding a year, according to the study's co-author, Greg Forster. Minnesota school districts are reimbursed on the basis of what they spend on special education, he said.

"The way we fund special education is inflating special education enrollment, and that harms both children and taxpayers," Forster said.

Tom Lombard, assistant commissioner for special education at Children, Families, and Learning, said the study is way off base.

"Nah, that's baloney," Lombard said.

"Our funding systems are not creating overplacement."

Lombard questioned why special education expenses would be raised just to be reimbursed. He also noted districts that increase their special education budgets have a lag time of two years before reimbursement money comes through.

Also, Lombard said, checks of school district records indicate that 98 percent of special education placements are accurate, and some criteria for placement in special education programs have been tightened.

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The Manhattan Institute does policy research in such areas as crime, the economy and education.

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