Legislative Auditor's Report on Special Education Released. The Office of the Legislative Auditor released its long-awaited report on Minnesota's special education system. Like all work performed by the office, it is top-notch and comprehensive. The report gives provides a thorough description of how Minnesota's system of special education works and provides an excellent statistical analysis on a variety of dynamics within the system.
The report was prepared by project manager Jody Hauer along with Sarah Roberts Delacueva and Jodi Munson Rodriguez. They provided the presentation to a joint meeting of the House Education Finance Committee and the Senate E-12 Division and it was professionally done and elicited a considerable amount of interest from the committee members. And that interest is what may separate the fate of this report from that of previous special education studies, performed by both the Office of the Legislative Auditor and Legislature.
There's nothing earth-shattering in this report. Anyone who has worked around special education funding or education funding as a whole over the past couple of decades is well aware of the cross-subsidy from the school district general funds to pay for unreimbursed special education costs resulting from the failure of state and federal funding levels to meet the fiscal needs of school districts. What is different now than when earlier special education reports were issued is that the environment has changed dramatically. School districts are under much greater fiscal stress than they have been and the StarTribune article from Sunday has helped frame the issues brought about by unique and costly special education needs and the inadequacy of school funding, both in terms of regular and special education.
The convergence of these dynamics may result in some action across a broad range of special education issues, including funding, in the session ahead (and beyond). The report clearly calls on the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) to look at their internal operations and discern if there are aspects of the department's oversight duties that are adding costs to school districts. MDE Commissioner Brenda Cassellius pledged that the department will evaluate its operations to make certain school districts get assistance in meeting reporting, compliance, and service delivery needs and also pointed out initiatives contained in the Governor's budget that should help those efforts.
Here is a link to the Office of the Legislative Auditor's report on Special Education: