Should You Outsource Special Ed?

By Richard Weeks

Students with disabilities represent 14 percent of students -- about one in seven -- in U.S. schools -- and the numbers are rising. In Massachusetts, for example, the percentage of students requiring special education services has steadily increased from 15 percent in 2001 to 17 percent in 2008. As you know, special education costs make up a substantial percentage of school budgets. During the same time, those cost as a percentage of overall budgets increased from 17.1 percent to 19.4 percent.

One reason for the increase in children with special needs could be that medical professionals have been doing a better job at detecting disabilities in children, including autism. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, autism affects one in 110 children in American schools. With these factors in place, districts can expect their special education obligations to grow.

As schools continue to face state budget cuts and other economic pressures, school boards and administrators increasingly may consider outsourcing special education services as a way to contain costs. However, outsourcing is not a simple solution, and many factors need to be included in the decision. 

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