Friday, June 22, 2018
Education

Hillsborough school officials say special ed funds never pay the full bill

TAMPA — Questions raised by the deaths of two students in exceptional education have included issues about money.

Hillsborough County School Board member Stacy White said he wants an accounting of the school district's exceptional student education spending at next year's budget hearing.

An attorney for deceased student Isabella Herrera told reporters that special-education grants are mixed with general-education funds instead of being separated out for disabled students.

But school district budget officials insist ESE students benefit from every dollar, and then some.

"We're not fully funded," said Gretchen Saunders, chief business officer. "We never are."

It's a delicate issue. Just as some ESE parents suspect the funds are used for non-ESE expenses, some parents of nondisabled children suspect their kids lose out because of ESE.

An account of the spending is contained in a yearly application the district submits for nearly $40 million under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

As with Title I, a federal program intended to close the achievement gap between richer and poorer students, IDEA money is supposed to enhance — not replace — what the state provides.

"It's a constant battle that the federal government has not funded IDEA at any rate that they promised they would," said Maryann Parks, supervisor of ESE improvement and accountability.

To a large extent, IDEA covers the cost of a bureaucracy needed to serve Hillsborough's 29,000 special-needs students.

Administrators, including Parks, have their salaries paid through IDEA. So do ESE center supervisors, specialists and staffing coordinators.

There's money for service providers, both in-house and through contracts, who work directly with the children. These include guidance counselors, psychologists, social workers and speech therapists.

Roughly one-fifth of the money goes toward benefits — such as Social Security and workers' compensation — for these and other workers.

There is a line item for $2.7 million to pay 350 ESE aides. But the system has more than double that number, Parks said.

Similarly, the money spent on curriculum, materials and technology — an estimated 5 percent of the grant — goes to items specific to ESE. Examples include big-type books for learning-impaired students and training materials for ESE teachers.

The law requires the district to spend some of the money on outreach in a process known as child find. "It's our job to locate those kids that might need help, that might need these services," Saunders said.

The district also is required to assist with ESE instruction at private schools. More than 600 such children were listed in the latest grant.

Another myth school district officials strongly dispute: That they try to keep disabled students out of private or charter schools, so they won't lose out on the federal funding.

"The money follows the student," Saunders said.

"We are proud of our district. Sure, we want them to stay here. But we're going to follow them, we're going to take care of them wherever they go."

Marlene Sokol can be reached at (813) 226-3356 or [email protected]

Comments
Hernando school officials set to discuss replacement, sever ties after firing Superintendent Lori Romano

Hernando school officials set to discuss replacement, sever ties after firing Superintendent Lori Romano

BROOKSVILLE — With dust still settling from the Hernando County School Board’s close vote to fire Superintendent Lori Romano — and days before her time as head of the district runs out — school officials and community members seem to be already movin...
Published: 06/20/18
Hernando students score slightly better on state tests

Hernando students score slightly better on state tests

BROOKSVILLE — As schools and districts across the state await their 2018 grades from the Florida Department of Education, the standardized test scores that factor into those ratings and were dropped last week show slight gains in Hernando County.The ...
Published: 06/20/18
Budget analysis projects deficit, deepened by security costs, for Pasco schools in coming year

Budget analysis projects deficit, deepened by security costs, for Pasco schools in coming year

An early analysis of the Pasco County School District’s 2018-2019 budget projects a deficit of more than a million dollars, with more than half of that coming from a shortfall in funding new school safety requirements.Costs to hire and train 53 new s...
Published: 06/20/18
New dorm still coming to USF St. Petersburg, but in a smaller package

New dorm still coming to USF St. Petersburg, but in a smaller package

ST. PETERSBURG — Originally pitched as a nine- or 10-story, 550-bed dorm for the overcrowded University of South Florida St. Petersburg campus, USF’s latest residence hall project will likely look much different by the time it’s done.For starters, it...
Published: 06/20/18
Carlton: From Sun Dome to Beer Stadium: Don’t let suds scare you

Carlton: From Sun Dome to Beer Stadium: Don’t let suds scare you

Am I missing something in the — pardon the expression — brouhaha over the renaming of the University of South Florida Sun Dome to the Yuengling Center? In trading a college arena’s longtime name for that of a big-name beer brewed ne...
Published: 06/20/18

Hillsborough school district will pursue two kinds of local taxes

TAMPA — Hillsborough County School District officials took an important step Tuesday toward asking the voters to pay higher taxes for schools that, they say, are not getting enough money from the state.The board voted 5-0 to submit a tax referendum r...
Published: 06/19/18
Updated: 06/20/18
STEM camp beats the summer doldrums for some Pasco students

STEM camp beats the summer doldrums for some Pasco students

DADE CITY —Just a few weeks into summer vacation, Pasco Middle School student Jade Neal, 14, was back at school, delving into a challenging STEM activity on force in motion, as the theme to Mission Impossible played in the background.The assignment? ...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/21/18
Ethan Hooper steps up with a salute to teachers

Ethan Hooper steps up with a salute to teachers

Editor’s note: Ethan Hooper wrote today’s column to give Ernest Hooper Father’s Day off.In May, I graduated from the University of Central Florida with a degree in elementary education, and I recently secured a job as a first-grade teacher with Orang...
Published: 06/18/18
AP World History course is dropping thousands of years of human events - and critics are furious

AP World History course is dropping thousands of years of human events - and critics are furious

Since 2002, the AP World History course has covered thousands of years of human activity around the planet, starting 10,000 years back. But now the College Board, which owns the Advanced Placement program, wants to cut out most of that history and st...
Published: 06/16/18
School board races attract new faces

School board races attract new faces

TAMPA — When long-time Hillsborough County School Board member Susan Valdes resigned this month from the board to run for the State House of Representatives, the decision affected more than just her seat in west Hillsborough’s District 1.It also coul...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/17/18