Audit: Increasing special education costs falling on school districts

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A report released by the state legislative auditor Wednesday shows the rising costs of special education are straining budgets of local school districts while state and federal aid hasn't kept pace, the Pioneer Press reports.

The median school district covers 33 percent of special education costs, a 40 percent increase from 2000 to 2011 when adjusted for inflation, the Associated Press says.

The state pays about 56 percent while the federal government picks up 11 percent of the cost.

With more school-age kids in Minnesota requiring special education, costs have skyrocketed 70 percent over the last decade to $1.8 billion last year, according to the Star Tribune.

Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles says another major contributor driving up costs is Minnesota's tendency to require more services for the disabled than those provided under federal law.

Nobles recommends that state lawmakers modify the special education rules and require districts to pay for expensive services that exceed federal guidelines.

As for funding, Gov. Mark Dayton has proposed increasing state aid for special education by $125 million, a 13 percent increase, over the next two years.

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