By Carla O’Day
As the Nevada Legislature is scheduled to meet, the Washoe County School District is seeking to convince it to adjust a policy put in place two years ago that deals with special education funding.
Existing law provides for a multiplier to be applied for students with disabilities so additional funds are provided, but such dollars are limited to not more than 13 percent of enrollment in school districts or individual charter schools. That cap was put in place during the 2015 session.
The school district is seeking to remove the limitation on the number of students to whom the multiplier may apply. Senate Bill 49 has been referred to the Committee on Finance.
The 79th session of the Nevada Legislature is scheduled to convene Feb. 6. During the 120-day period, lawmakers work on a budget for the biennium.
Byron Green, school district chief student services officer, said Tuesday that the purpose of the bill draft request isn’t to over identify students and collect more state money.
The percentage of students in Washoe County with Individual Education Plans has ranged from 13 percent to 13.7 percent each year during the last decade. Washoe County’s percentage of English language learners has ranged from about 16 to 18 percent during the same time frame.
By comparison, school districts statewide range from having eight to 17 percent of pupils identified as special needs and between 15 to 20 percent identified as English language learners.
“These are some of our most impacted students and it costs about double to educate these students,” Green said. “No matter what, we have to take whoever comes to us.”
Educating a child in standard classes costs an average of $6,300 per year, but an additional $6,700 on average is needed to educate each child with special needs, Green said. Smaller class sizes, additional classroom assistants, occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy, adaptive physical education and door-to-door transit are among examples that drive up costs.
Funds to schools are paid from the state’s Distributive School Account, which is part of Nevada’s general fund. Additional dollars needed locally that don’t come from the state are drawn from the district’s general fund, Green said.
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Carla has an undergraduate degree in journalism and more than 10 years experience as a daily newspaper reporter. She grew up in Jacksonville, Fla., moved to the Reno area in 2002 and wrote for the Reno Gazette-Journal for 8 years, covering a variety of topics. Prior to that, she covered local government in Fort Pierce, Fla.