Last year 237 Cape area special education students required out-of-district placement at a cost of $19,297,996. $7.3 million of this was reimbursed to districts under the “circuit breaker” program according to information obtained from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). The other $11.95 million was absorbed by local taxpayers. See the costs town-by-town chart below.
Last week the Dennis-Yarmouth Regional School District laid off 42 full- and part-time staffers in a desperate move to reduce the district’s burgeoning deficit. Several media reports have cited unanticipated special education costs as the primary cause of DY’s financial woes.
One media report indicated that DY was forced to spend $200,000 on a single special ed student who had to be placed in a private facility.
Falmouth Public Schools had the highest number of students on out-of-district placement with 49 of their special ed kids requiring such programs. That led to a region-leading cost of $3.9 million. Barnstable had 45 such placements ($3.7M), Sandwich had 36 ($2.85M) and Dennis-Yarmouth had 32 students on out-placement at a cost of $1.89 million.
Special education budgets are very difficult to anticipate because if a single severely-challenged child moves to town a new, six-figure tuition bill could arrive with that student.
Out-placements are made to private, Chapter 766 schools approved by the DESE. Tuition at these facilities can range from $5,000 up to $295,000 per year depending on the facility and services needed. Full pricing of both in-state and out-of-state DESE-approved schools is available at the DESE’s “Special Education Pricing” web page.